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Senators push bill to prevent insurance industry 'bailout' over ObamaCare

 

Warning that the latest ObamaCare "fix" could compel the federal government to bail out insurance companies, Republican senators have introduced a bill to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to prop up the industry. 

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with a half-dozen other Republican senators, introduced the "ObamaCare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act" on Tuesday. It would strip a provision in the Affordable Care Act pertaining to so-called "risk corridors," which could allow the government to pay insurance companies to offset financial losses. 

Rubio calls it a "blank check" for the industry. 

"The idea that the federal government should be bailing out insurance companies in order to make ObamaCare work, that's not something a lot of people are aware of," Rubio told Fox News. "And I haven't taken a poll on it, but I guarantee you it would be hugely unpopular." 

The provision has been in the law since passage, but Rubio and other senators raised concern about it after President Obama announced last week that he would allow insurance companies to continue to offer out-of-compliance plans. The announcement was made in response to the millions of people receiving cancellation notices -- but industry representatives raised concern that if they offer the old plans again, premium revenue could go down. 

In addition, the federal website for ObamaCare is still experiencing problems, meaning the industry is not receiving as many new customers as it had initially hoped. 

In a statement last week, an official with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that the risk corridor program could be used to help insurance companies. 

Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said in a letter to insurance commissioners that the program "should help ameliorate unanticipated changes in premium revenue" and the government is looking at ways to modify the rules "to provide additional assistance." 

Asked about the program, an administration official told FoxNews.com on Wednesday that they would be providing more information "very soon" on risk corridors and how they might be adjusted in light of the recent announcement. 

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, stressed that the three-year program is only temporary, and said it's not out of the ordinary for new laws. 

"There's a lot of uncertainty about what the markets are going to look like," he said, noting the payments are designed to help stabilize the market. 

Rubio, though, fired off a letter Tuesday to the Congressional Budget Office asking for a cost estimate for the program. 

"It is clear that the risk corridors' only purpose over the next 3 years will be to serve exclusively as a taxpayer bailout mechanism for health insurance companies," he wrote. 

Rubio's bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and David Vitter, R-La. 

According to Politico, Obama told insurance executives at a meeting last week that the government's assistance to the industry would be limited. Obama plans to meet Wednesday afternoon with insurance commissioners, some of whom have already announced they would not implement the president's plan. 

FoxNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.