Health premium costs saw modest jump, survey finds

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On Tuesday, Kaiser President Drew Altman wrote that, contrary to some estimates, rates of premium growth have slowed dramatically in the last decade.

"Double digit increases in premiums were once a common occurrence, but we have not seen any since a 10 percent increase in 2004 and 13 percent growth in 2003," Altman wrote in a column.

"Rates of increase in total health spending have been holding at 4-6 percent per year recently. ... These are strikingly low numbers to those of us who have been studying health costs for a long time."

But authors of the report also warned that slower premium growth might not last.

"The sluggish economy may have played a role in this modest increase," said Maulik S. Joshi, president of the Health Research and Educational Trust, which partnered with Kaiser on the survey.

Joshi added that 2.9 million adult children have gained coverage through their parents because of President Obama's healthcare law, up from 2.3 million last year, according to the report.

Overall, families in employer-sponsored health plans paid an average annual premium of $15,745 in 2012 while single workers paid $5,615. The report surveyed 2,000 small and large employers from January to May of this year.

Some right-leaning analysts quickly jumped on the findings as evidence that Obama and the healthcare law have failed.

"As a reminder, candidate Obama said repeatedly his bill would cut premiums by an average of $2,500 per family – meaning premiums would go down, not merely just 'go up by less than projected,' " GOP policy analyst Chris Jacobs said in an email to reporters.

But study authors argued that there is not enough evidence to make conclusions about the Affordable Care Act's effect on premiums.