Obama administration officials are blasting a Wall Street Journal article about recent increases in U.S. health insurance prices.

Janet Adamy, a Wall Street Journal reporter, says in an article printed on top of the front page that carriers are blaming requirements in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a component of the Affordable Care Act package, for much of the increase.

Total premium increases for some consumers could exceed 20%, Adamy writes.

Celtic Insurance Company, Chicago, has proposed a 18% increase for Wisconsin and North Carolina, with 9 percentage points coming from PPACA provisions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

ODS Health Plan, Portland, Ore., is attributing 6.01 percentage points of a proposed 20.73% increase to PPACA, and the Mennonite Mutual Aid Association, Hutchinson, Kan., is attributing all of a 4% proposed increase to PPACA, the paper says.

Adamy quotes Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, as saying, “Anytime you add a benefit, there are increased costs.”

Adamy also reports that a few carriers are hoping PPACA will lower their costs. HMO Colorado, part of WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis (NYSE:WLP), says its small group rates might fall 1.8% Oct. 1 due to


PPACA-related changes, Adamy says.

Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to President Obama, has fired back with a blog entry noting that U.S. health insurance prices were rising long before PPACA came along.

“The premium increases discussed today – many of which were planned before the Affordable Care Act was even signed into law – demonstrate that reform came at a critical time,” Cutter writes. “In fact, consumers have faced unreasonable double-digit

premium increases for more than a decade, including employer-sponsored plans, where premiums have more than doubled since 2000.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the overall rate of medical inflation is just 3.2%, and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., says family premiums are increasing just 3% this year, Cutter says.

The Obama administration believes Affordable Care Act provisions will increase overall coverage costs by less than 2%, and a number of act provisions, such as a requirement that health plans provide no-deductible coverage for some vaccines, cancer screenings and other preventive care, should reduce many consumers’ overall out-of-pocket health care costs, Cutter says.

In 2011, insurers will have to post public justifications of premium increases on their websites, Cutter says.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, says insurers are using PPACA consumer protection provisions “as a cover for their own greed.” Publicly traded health insurers reported billions of dollars in profits for the second quarter “as they spent less in medical care and took in more in premiums,” Stark says.