But perhaps the most significant number was buried in a footnote. Down at the bottom of the last page of the analysis was this line:
CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate that premiums for policies in the nongroup market would increase by roughly 20 percent relative to current law in all years between 2018 and 2026.
By itself, that line is unassuming. When you break it out, though, it’s remarkable. That’s a 20 percent increase in the cost of premiums for those buying insurance outside of employer coverage every year for the next decade.
What does that mean? Well, let’s look at an example.
Let’s say that you spend $1,000 on your premiums in 2017. Next year, those would have gone up by 20 percent under the Senate bill, to $1,200. The year after, another 20 percent higher — relative to $1,200. So now we’re at $1,440.
By 2026? You would have been paying more than $5,100 a year. Those costs would have gone up anyway, thanks to inflation but (using projections from the University of Oregon) much more slowly. In a decade, you would have been paying about $2,800 if the premium cost increase matched inflation. Meaning that the Senate bill would have increased your premium costs at twice the rate of inflation.
Or, heck. Use your own numbers. Put in whatever you pay for insurance now and see how it would have changed if the Senate bill had gone into effect.
By 2020, when Trump is scheduled to be up for reelection, someone paying $5,000 a year in 2017 would have been paying $8,640. Over the first four years, premiums would have more than doubled. By 2022, when senators elected or reelected last year face voters again, the annual cost would have been $12,441.
It’s important to put this in context: How does it compare to growth in the past?
The Kaiser Family Foundation has graphed several periods. From 2001 to 2006, premium costs increased 63 percent — over that five-year period. From 2006 to 2011, up 31 percent. From 2011 to 2016, up 20 percent.
That’s for workers with employer coverage, though. What we’re looking at in the CBO’s data is the change in individual premium costs. That’s a bit trickier to compare over time, because the nongroup marketplace under Obamacare since 2014 is a different beast. That said, KFF has data.
Nationally, the cost of premiums for benchmark silver plans on the marketplace increased 1 percent from 2014 to 2015, 8 percent from 2015 to 2016 and 21 percent from 2016 to 2017. Over the 2014-to-2017 period, the national increase was about 32 percent in total.
In some states, the increase has been more substantial, as critics of Obamacare have been quick to note. (Individual states are marked with smaller circles.) These figures are before subsidies, which is important to note. Only about 3 percent of Americans buy insurance on the exchange without a subsidy, so the effect on people’s pocketbooks is less dramatic.
What the CBO estimates, though, is that the Senate bill would have created an increase equivalent to the one seen from 2016 to 2017 in every year for the next decade. That’s not what the president promised, and, particularly given how fervently Republicans hammered the increase in 2017, clearly would have opened them up to enormous criticism.
That the Senate bill won’t become law is, in that sense at least, probably not all bad for Republican senators who supported it.