I’ve gotten a lot of emails about this, so it’s worth addressing. Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) has been going around saying:
“Recent census data shows that the average American family spends over $13,000 a year for health care coverage.”
Which has led Politifact.org (whom I respect) to give him a false on the Truth-O-Meter. People have taken this to mean that the statistic I quoted is wrong. It’s not.
I said, “The average plan (not the gold-plated plan) costs over $13,000 a year.” The difference is – and the whole point of the Politifact article – is that the average family isn’t paying this bill; the employer is. They’re right. That’s the cost of the average employer paid plan and employers are paying most of the premiums. None of this changes the Kaiser Family Foundation report, or my analysis, which both say that the average cost of the plans are $13,375. Politifact even says this, if you read the whole thing:
Braley would have been correct if he’d simply tweaked what he said. If he’d cited data showing that “the annual health care premiums for the average American family are greater than $13,000,” he would have been right.
This is part of my problem with the whole debate we’re having. Yes, Braley was wrong. But how wrong? If the employer has to pay $10,000 a year for an insurance premium, surely that means an employee is going to make less money. If health insurance was cheaper, couldn’t we expect that more money would go to the employee? So isn’t this costing the employee potential earnings? Braley’s lie is one of semantics. It is not equivalent to the other lies on the Politifact site, lies that have no basis in truth and are way more than semantic.
More to the point – who cares? The average employer based family insurance plan costs more than $13,000 a year, in just premiums! Shouldn’t we be talking about that?