By Sam Baker - 05/17/12 05:06 PM EDT
If the Affordable Care Act had been in place between 2001 and 2008, people in the individual insurance market would have saved about $280 per year on out-of-pocket costs, the study says.
The research, published in the journal Health Affairs, says the savings would be even greater for people between the ages of 55 and 64 — those who are old enough to be racking up higher healthcare bills, but not yet eligible for Medicare.
The Affordable Care Act creates new insurance exchanges, where people in the individual market can more easily compare and purchase policies. Plans sold through an exchange will have to cover certain benefits, such as prescription drugs, and some preventive services will have to be made available without a co-pay.
Those policies will make individual policies more generous and lead to out-of-pocket savings for consumers, the Health Affairs study says. The average person with an individual policy would have saved $280 per year if the Affordable Care Act had been in place from 2001 to 2008, and people between 55 and 64 would have saved an average of $589.
In addition to curbing average out-of-pocket spending, the study says, the healthcare law would reduce the risk of incurring extremely high out-of-pocket costs. The chances of incurring at least $6,000 in out-of-pocket costs fell from 2.6 percent to 0.6. percent.
Notably, the study only examined out-of-pocket costs, and did not look at premiums. Critics of the healthcare law say benefits that will lower out-of-pocket costs — such as eliminating co-pays for preventive services — will cause premiums to rise. When insurers can’t make their customers pay an up-front charge, they’ll simply build the added costs into their premiums, critics argue.