New WH regs provide ObamaCare bailout funding for insurers – while bypassing Congress
posted at 2:41 pm on May 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Their lips say no no no, but their regulations keep saying yes. Despite denials that the Obama administration intends to spend massive amounts of taxpayer dollars to rescue insurers from losses caused by ObamaCare mandates, the LA Times’ Noah Levey reports that new regulations earmark “billions” of dollars in federal funds to indemnify the indemnifiers. The White House plans to use the funds to entice insurers into keeping premium increases low:
The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.
The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall’s congressional elections.
Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a “bailout” for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law. …
But the change in regulations essentially provides insurers with another backup: If they keep rate increases modest over the next couple of years but lose money, the administration will tap federal funds as needed to cover shortfalls.
In other words, it’s a payoff to perpetrate a fraud. The White House has long argued that their takeover of the health-insurance industry would “bend the cost curve downward,” but instead, premiums have spiked upward dramatically — as have deductibles, a powerful one-two punch to the gut of consumers. That threatens the political prospects of Democrats in the midterms, especially since the next round of premium increases will hit right before the election.
In that context, the new regulations make it clear that the White House intends to use its regulatory authority to provide a false sense of relative affordability, or at least disaster avoidance. It’s also clear that they want to avoid having to ask Congress for the money, which my colleague Conn Carroll thought would be necessary to proceed:
But there is just one hitch: according to a January 2014 Congressional Research Service memo, it would be illegal for Obama to make risk corridor payments to insurance companies without an explicit appropriation from Congress.
This means that Republicans do not need Rubio’s legislation to stop a taxpayer bailout. It is already illegal for Obama to use taxpayer funds to pay insurance companies through the risk corridor program.
Unfortunately, from his war in Libya to his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Obama has a well established history of flagrantly breaking federal law. And progressive activists are already urging Obama to ignore federal law and illegally bailout the insurance companies through the risk corridor program anyway.
If conservatives want to stop the illegal Obamacare insurance bailout before it starts they must start planning now. The current budget deal expires this September, just two months before Election Day. They must demand appropriations language explicitly banning any payments to insurance companies through the risk corridor program that exceed payments to the program.
If they don’t, then Republicans will have missed another huge opportunity to minimize Obamacare’s damage.
Looks like Rubio’s bill needs to move forward, and fast, if we’re going to avoid another federal-government bailout of the insurance industry, and the cover-up of the true costs of ObamaCare.