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Healthcare costs under Obamacare are not 'going up by numbers that are astronomical,' as Trump says

Healthcare costs under Obamacare are not 'going up by numbers that are astronomical,' as Trump says
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks while Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton takes notes. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Affordable Care Act is a disaster, and did so again Sunday, noting that Americans' monthly insurance premiums are rising by "astronomical" amounts.

"Your health insurance, you're healthcare, going up by numbers that are astronomical — 68%, 59%, 71%," he said.

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This is a major exaggeration.

The health law has not controlled healthcare costs as much as the law's champions and many experts had hoped.

And insurers selling health plans on state marketplaces created by the law are indeed seeking some large premium increases in 2017, citing higher than expected costs to cover patients' medical claims.

But this misses a much larger part of the Obamacare story.

While the marketplaces are an important part of the health law, they remain a fraction of the overall system, providing coverage to fewer than 12 million people, most of whom cannot get coverage through an employer or other government program.

By comparison, about 150 million Americans get health coverage through an employer. Another 55 million elderly and disable Americans get coverage through the federal Medicare program.

Healthcare costs in both the employer market and in Medicare have been rising at historically low levels since the enactment of the 2010 health law.

This year, for example, the annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of just 3%, according to an annual survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

And since 2011, premiums rose 20%, far lower than in the previous five years, when premiums jumped 31% and even lower than in the five years between 2001 and 2006, when they shot up 63%.

Medicare has seen a similar slowdown, as the cost per enrollee has grown by an average of just 1.4% annually since 2011, according to the last report by the program's trustees.

That was the lowest growth rate in Medicare's history, dating back to 1965.

Twitter: @noamlevey

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