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Marco Rubio Quietly Undermines Affordable Care Act

Dec 11, 2015 | News

WASHINGTON — A little-noticed health care provision that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida slipped into a giant spending law last year has tangled up the Obama administration, sent tremors through health insurance markets and rattled confidence in the durability of President Obama’s signature health law.
So for all the Republican talk about dismantling the Affordable Care Act, one Republican… has actually done something toward achieving that goal.

The risk corridors were intended to help some insurance companies if they ended up with too many new sick people on their rolls and too little cash from premiums to cover their medical bills in the first three years under the health law. But because of Mr. Rubio’s efforts, the administration says it will pay only 13 percent of what insurance companies were expecting to receive this year. The payments were supposed to help insurers cope with the risks they assumed when they decided to participate in the law’s new insurance marketplaces.
Mr. Rubio’s talking point is bumper-sticker ready. The payments, he says, are “a taxpayer-funded bailout for insurance companies.” But without them, insurers say, many consumers will face higher premiums and may have to scramble for other coverage. Already, some insurers have shut down over the unexpected shortfall.
“Risk corridors have become a political football,” said Dawn H. Bonder, the president and chief executive of Health Republic of Oregon, an insurance co-op that announced in October it would close its doors after learning that it would receive only $995,000 of the $7.9 million it had expected from the government. “We were stable, had a growing membership and could have been successful if we had received those payments. We relied on the payments in pricing our plans, but the government reneged on its promise. I am disgusted.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield executives have warned the administration and Congress that eliminating the federal payments could have a devastating impact on insurance markets.
Twelve of the 23 nonprofit insurance cooperatives created under the law have failed, disrupting coverage for more than 700,000 people, and co-op executives like Ms. Bonder have angrily cited the sharp reduction in federal payments as a factor in their demise.
But Mr. Rubio is pressing forward, demanding a provision in the final spending bill now under negotiation that continues the current risk corridor restrictions, or even eliminates the program altogether. That enormous spending bill is being worked out as Congress slides toward a deadline of Friday, when much of the federal government’s funding runs out.
“If you want to be involved in the exchanges and you lose money, the American taxpayer should not have to bail you out,” Mr. Rubio said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

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