So are the pundits right? Only partly. Gabel and colleagues calculate that:
Keeping adult kids on parent plans added 0.9% to insurance premiums.
The ban on lifetime maximum benefits added 0.5% to insurance premiums.
Free preventive services added 0.4% to insurance premiums.
Other provisions of the Affordable Care Act had no effect on insurance premiums for 2011.
That means that health care reforms are responsible for 2 points of the 9-point increase in family health insurance premiums.
"At least this year, there is a general consensus that the effect of the Affordable Care Act on health costs is modest," Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, tells WebMD (Kaiser Family Foundation is not affiliated with the Kaiser Permanente managed care consortium).
On the plus side, these changes in the U.S. health care system provided benefits to large numbers of people, notes Sara R. Collins, PhD, vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund.
"These are changes that really needed to be made," Collins tells WebMD. "Kids who go off parents' policies at 19 and can't find a job are very costly to the health system. And obviously people don't want to blow through their benefits if they need something like cancer treatment. The span-of-life benefit affected 38 million people."
America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group that represents the health insurance industry, puts health reform well down its list of factors driving up premiums.
Why Health Insurance Premiums Went Up
So if it wasn't health care reform, what did cause the spike in health insurance premiums?