Leading Dem 'happy' to limit ObamaCare insurer payments

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations health subcommittee, says she is “happy” to include a rider in the spending bill that would limit payments to insurance companies under ObamaCare. 

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At issue is an ObamaCare program called “risk corridors” meant to shield insurers from heavy losses as the law got up and running. Last year, Republicans were able to secure a rider in the spending bill making the program “budget neutral,” meaning that the Obama administration could not shift other funds into the program. 

Republicans are pressing for the rider to be included again in this year's funding bill in order to prevent what they've called a “bailout” of insurance companies under the health law. 

And DeLauro, at least, is not fighting them.

“I'd be happy to have it in there,” she said, noting that it’s better than other ObamaCare riders from her perspective. 

“It's not the rider that talks about defunding the Affordable Care Act,” she said. 

The health insurance industry is pushing against the provision and is also pushing for broader changes to boost the risk corridor program. 

But, DeLauro said, “I don't carry a brief for the insurance companies. They do pretty well.”

In October, the Obama administration announced that not enough money had come into the program and insurers would only be getting 12.6 percent of the $2.87 billion that they requested. 

That left a hole in the budgets of insurance companies and contributed to the closure of several nonprofit co-op health plans set up under the law. Even UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest insurer, cited the risk corridor shortfall when it said last month that it could exit the ObamaCare marketplaces after 2016. 

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurer trade group, points to the nearly 800,000 people who have to change their coverage after losing it through the closure of co-ops and other plans. 

"There is a growing recognition about the instability facing consumers in the market,” AHIP spokeswoman Clare Krusing said in a statement. “Nearly 800,000 Americans have faced coverage disruptions as a result of the significant and unexpected shortfall with the risk corridors program. Congress and the Administration must act to make sure consumers are protected.”

The spending bill is still being negotiated, and the insurance industry has not seen a specific risk corridor proposal to comment on. 

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.), a presidential candidate, has made fighting the insurance “bailout” a leading cause. In addition, conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus say the issue is one of their deal-breakers on the spending bill. 

“We will not support anything that has a bailout of the insurance companies,” Rep. Matt SalmonMatt SalmonLGBT fight dooms spending bill on House floor A hearing brought to tears over Right to Try legislation Time for national Right to Try legislation MORE (R-Ariz.) said after leaving the House Republican Conference meeting on Thursday. “And I don't think that's going to be in there anyway, I got that sense.”