Workers at a circuit-board factory here just saw their health insurance premiums rise 20 percent. At Buddy Zaremba’s print shop nearby, the increase was 37 percent. And for engineers at the Woodland Design Group, they rose 43 percent.
The new federal health care law may eventually “bend the cost curve” downward, as proponents argue. But for now, at many workplaces here, the rising cost of health care is prompting insurance premiums to skyrocket while coverage is shrinking.
Economists and state regulators say health insurance is expensive primarily because health care is expensive.
“You won’t really address the cost of health insurance unless you address the cost of health care itself,” New Hampshire’s insurance commissioner, Roger A. Sevigny, said.
In a letter explaining Mr. La Tourette’s new rate, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield said it resulted, in part, from “an increase in medical trends, especially the utilization of services and the underlying cost of health care, for all small-group customers.”
Some insurance industry lobbyists say the new federal health care law is driving up premiums. But Vincent Capozzi, senior vice president for sales and customer service at Harvard Pilgrim, said that only one percentage point of the increases here was attributable to the federal law, mainly its requirement for free coverage of preventive services.
Another percentage point results from new state laws requiring coverage of hearing aids and certain treatments for autism, Mr. Capozzi said. Most of the remainder, he said, reflects increases in the use and cost of medical care by small-group customers, with adjustments for demographic characteristics like age.
In many cases, insurance coverage is shrinking as deductibles are increasing and choices of hospitals are more limited. Robert I. Woodland, the president of the Woodland Design Group, said his company had experienced double-digit increases in premiums for seven years, even as benefits were whittled back. Most recently, he was notified that the rates were being increased 43 percent, so the monthly premium for a single worker would be $550, up from $384.
“Essentially, we have been paying a lot more for a lot less,” Mr. Woodland said. “It’s outrageous. I cannot imagine charging my clients 43 percent more in a single year.”