As is becoming clear, there's nothing cheap about affordablehealth insurance for the masses. Defining the actual cost toinsurers and others has been a tricky matter. Now, someone has puta number on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act'soverhead.

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Health Affairs Blog has produced a study based on numbersprovided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services thatestimates that private and government overhead directlyattributable to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act willadd an average of 20 percent per year to that cost.

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In total dollars, the blog's study estimates, overhead will haveadded $273 billion by 2022.

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The biggest jump came last year, of course, when overhead forprivate and government services related to PPACA rose by 45percent. This year, the study says PPACA additional overhead willhit nearly 33 percent. By 2017, the study's calculations say,annual PPACA overhead cost will begin to settle into a pattern ofabout 20 percent per year. In raw dollars, that's more than $30billion a year.

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The study also calculated the annual overhead cost per newlyinsured individual. While that number will vary somewhat, theestimated average is $1,375 a year.

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“Most of this soaring private insurance overhead is attributableto rising enrollment in private plans, which carry high costs foradministration and profit,” write the authors, David Himmelsteinand Steffie Woolhandler. “The rest reflects the costs of runningthe exchanges, which serve as brokers for the new private coverageand will be funded (after initial startup costs) by surcharges onexchange plans' premiums.”

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.