Committee to Review Legislative Solution to Prevent Illegal Payments to Health Insurance Companies
The administration has made a habit of unilateral changes to, and unlawful implementation of the president’s health care law, including the law’s risk corridor program. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will take a closer look at this element of the law next week with a hearing on proposals to address the controversial aspect of the law and other harmful consequences for Americans. As The Weekly Standard writes, “Obama has no lawful authority to pay insurers through the risk-corridor program, even in the very unlikely event that payments don’t exceed receipts. Any payments would require an appropriation, and Congress hasn’t appropriated any money for the risk corridors.”
July 28, 2014
A No-Brainer for the House GOP
By Jeffrey H. Anderson and William Kristol
… Obamacare’s risk-corridor program is a way of shifting risk from insurance companies to taxpayers—of putting the latter on the hook if the former lose money. The risk corridors’ existence incentivizes insurers to lowball their prices, since they know taxpayers will help cover their losses. It’s bad policy, and it’s unpopular. …
If that weren’t bad enough, President Obama has converted the risk corridors into a slush fund, which he has used to help cover up his lawless refusal to execute Obamacare as written. When, amidst a public outcry, Obama unilaterally declared that some Americans whose insurance policies had been banned by Obamacare could temporarily keep those policies after all, insurers weren’t happy. They had been planning on those people—most of whom are generally healthy—being forced into the exchanges. When insurers complained, Obama responded by changing the risk corridor rules to funnel more money their way. This helped buy the insurers’ silence in the face of the president’s lawlessness. …
In addition to all of this, Obama has no lawful authority to pay insurers through the risk-corridor program, even in the very unlikely event that payments don’t exceed receipts. Any payments would require an appropriation, and Congress hasn’t appropriated any money for the risk corridors. Yet the Obama administration is now saying the money for such payments can be understood as “user fees,” which—the administration says—”section 1342 [of Obamacare] authorizes the collection and payment of.” In truth, section 1342 contains fewer than 500 words, none of which is “user,” “fees,” or anything akin to “user fees.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service notes that federal agencies are prohibited “from making payments in the absence of a valid appropriation,” and that Obamacare’s risk-corridor section “would not appear to constitute an appropriation.” It adds that agencies “may not create a revolving fund absent specific authorizing legislation,” and “there does not appear to be sufficient statutory language to create a revolving fund.”
So, in addition to providing a taxpayer bailout for insurers, the risk-corridor program has become a vehicle for presidential lawlessness.
Repealing the risk corridors is a way of putting the issues of Obamacare, cronyism, and the rule of law front and center this fall. The House, which now seems ready to move, should do so expeditiously. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) have championed legislation to repeal the risk corridors, with the active support of Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton. If the House passes such legislation by early September, Democrats in the Senate and the White House will have to defend a program that’s bad policy and bad politics: an unholy alliance between Big Government and Big Insurance that prospers at the expense of taxpayers—and voters.
Read the article online HERE.