The government funding bill unveiled late Tuesday night includes a provision touted by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) that would prevent what Republicans call a bailout of health insurers under ObamaCare.
The provision restricts an ObamaCare program, known as risk corridors, that is meant to shield insurers from heavy losses in the early years of the law. The program takes money from insurers doing well and gives it to insurers faring poorly.
However, the program has taken in only enough money to pay out a fraction of the amount requested. The Republican-backed provision would prevent the administration from shifting other funds into the program to make up the difference.
“Why should American taxpayers be bailing out insurance companies, many of whom cooperated with, conspired with alongside the Obama administration to get Obamacare passed?” Rubio said in an interview with Breitbart last month.
The provision was included in last year’s spending bill, and it had been expected that it would be included again this year.
Democrats did push for help for insurers under the risk corridor program earlier in the negotiations, possibly including a new tax credit for insurers, sources said.
But Republicans held firm and rejected the efforts.
“That was part of our conversation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said Tuesday of the effort to get risk corridor help. He said he did not know how hard the White House and other Democrats pushed because he was not in those conversations.
Durbin called Rubio’s provision a “serious problem.”
“Senator Rubio, in his effort to derail the Affordable Care Act in any possible way, changed that language a year ago and now we're stuck with it,” he said.
The bill does include other help for insurers, though, in the form of a one-year suspension of ObamaCare’s tax on health insurers in 2017.
The suspension of that tax is part of a deal around a trio of ObamaCare taxes that also included a two-year delay of the "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health plans and a two-year suspension of the tax on medical devices.
The Health Insurance Tax (HIT) is projected to have brought in about $13 billion in 2018, far more than the roughly $2.5 billion insurers lost out on under the risk corridor program.
But insurers argue that the HIT suspension does not make up for the lack of risk corridor help. They say that just as the cost of the HIT is passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums, the one-year suspension of the tax will simply result in lower premiums, not a windfall for health insurance companies.
"The latest budget proposals do nothing to address the recent funding shortfall with the risk corridors program or make-up for the losses facing health plans in the Exchange,” Clare Krusing, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement earlier Tuesday.