Premiums could rise under healthcare law, Sebelius concedes

The Obama administration acknowledged Tuesday that some people could see their premiums rise under the healthcare reform law.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFighting for assisted living facilities The chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ MORE told reporters that "there may be a higher cost associated with getting into that market" where "folks will be moving into a really fully insured product for the first time." 

The comment was among the first from the Obama administration to reveal a degree of uncertainty about the impact of the law on insurance premiums.

Sebelius said that transparency and "market strategies" will ease any potential instances of rate shock for consumer buying insurance.

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"This is the first time ever in the history of the United States that insurance companies have to file their rates, it has to be very transparent, they have to offer the same kind of coverage without 5,000 tiny little lines and internal caps, and they have to compete for customers. And I am a believer in the market strategies that in and of itself will minimize the rate impact," Sebelius said.

Sebelieus added that people "are really going to see much better benefit for the money that they're spending" as the law kicks in, and noted that many will receive subsidies from the government to help pay for insurance.

The secretary's concession on premiums put the White House on the defensive. When asked about Sebelius's remarks, a spokesman for President Obama said healthcare costs are falling thanks to the reform law.

"I would actually point to the results that we're already seeing from the Affordable Care Act, which is a savings of $2.1 billion and the analysis from the [Congressional Budget Office] that actually says, in the future, we're gonna see rates that are lower for higher benefits," deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

Several key provisions of the Affordable Care Act will take effect next year, and the two parties are battling over how it should be implemented. 

Premiums have been a hot topic for debate. Critics of the healthcare law have long charged that rates could rise substantially in the individual and small-group insurance markets under the law, particularly for younger adults.

The comments were published online late Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal

—Justin Sink contributed.

This story was first posted at 9:38 a.m. and has been updated.