Insurers fire back over ObamaCare changes

The health insurance industry is firing back at Republicans' decision to cut government payments that could help plans struggling under the healthcare law. 

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) blasted legislation changing ObamaCare's "risk corridors" program and predicted that it would raise healthcare costs for families. 

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"American budgets are already strained by healthcare costs, and this change will lead to higher premiums for consumers and make it more difficult to achieve affordability," said Clare Krusing, AHIP spokeswoman. 

"Our focus should be on changes to the law that will lower costs — like repealing the health insurance tax — not those that drive premiums higher." 

Risk corridors, a commonly used tool in public policy, were included in the healthcare law to spread risk among insurance companies participating in the new health insurance exchanges. 

Firms that do better than expected in 2014, 2015 and 2016 pay the government, and firms that do worse than expected can receive those funds. 

Critics of the healthcare law have worked for a year to stop the government from spending additional money to enlarge those payments. 

The Department of Health and Human Services at one point assured the industry that more money would be available, but the "cromnibus" spending bill released Tuesday would prevent that. 

The fight reveals the strained relationship between the health insurance industry and Republican lawmakers. 

Traditionally viewed as allies, the two sides are estranged over the healthcare law. Younger, more conservative Republicans have little deference for the industry. 

A spokesman for Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioThe Trail 2016: Warren takes VP batting practice Abortion ruling roils race for the White House, Senate US, Mexico have mutual ambassadors for first time in over a year MORE (R-Fla.), the lawmaker who first decried the payments as an insurer "bailout," praised the decision to include the language. 

"While the administration will still be able to administer the risk corridor program, at least now they must to do it in a budget-neutral fashion, opposed to unlawfully providing for a taxpayer bailout," said Alex Conant. 

"While there is much in this massive spending measure that is deeply troubling, at least this provision appears to be a step in the right direction."