As evidence mounts of a looming taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies under ObamaCare, the urgency grows for Congress to take this possibility off the table for good.
As expected, ObamaCare's costs are rising, and health insurers are passing them along to patients in the form of higher premiums and deductibles.
Just this week, a majority of insurers offering health plans in Florida announced rate increases ranging from 11 to 23 percent. This means that if patients balk at paying this sharp increase and drop their coverage, these health insurers will have to make up the difference somehow.
Enter section 1342 of the ObamaCare law, which established so-called "risk corridors".
According to this provision, taxpayers will make up the difference for health insurance companies whose plans lose money under ObamaCare. Last November, as it became clearer what this section of the law actually meant, I introduced legislation repealing it and protecting taxpayers from being forced to cover insurers' ObamaCare losses.
Afterwards, as pressure from taxpayers mounted on the Obama administration, it announced that it had no intention of operating this bailout program at a net cost to the American people. As expected, health insurers and their lobbyists revolted. I called the administration's bluff, and introduced new legislation that would codify into law what they have promised and prohibit this "revenue neutrality" from being achieved through use of taxpayer funds. Not surprisingly, it's gone nowhere in the Democratically-controlled Senate, and the White House won't go anywhere near it.
In recent weeks, the public has learned that senior White House officials have been working closely with insurers behind the scenes to make sure that their earlier bailout deal, which helped assure ObamaCare's passage in 2010, would stand and that a taxpayer-funded bailout was still, in fact, on the table.
According to a recent investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa, insurers widely expect to receive funds from the bailout program. One large health insurer recently filed financial statements claiming they expect part of their revenue to come from American taxpayers via the ObamaCare bailout "fund".
This "fund" brings us to another dimension of the Obama administration's maneuvering to make sure that health insurers get paid. Knowing that the current U.S. House of Representatives will never appropriate money for this bailout, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) figured out a way to use general funds available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay off health insurers. The effect is to circumvent Congress' power of the purse for the purpose of bailing out health insurers with taxpayer funds.
On this ObamaCare bailout, as with so many issues, Washington politicians are misleading average Americans and planning to stick them with the bill. This is government favoritism and corporate cronyism at its worst.
With ObamaCare's costs rising and projected to cost more than $2 trillion over the next decade, its damage on people's jobs and work hours continuing, and the prospect of a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurers still alive and well, it's clear this law has failed. It's time to repeal and replace it, but at the very least, we should make it the law of the land that health insurers won't be bailed out by taxpayers because ObamaCare has not proven to be as profitable as its proponents hoped it would be.
Republican Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.