I start tonight with insurer subsidies, move on to some comments about the GOP, and finish up with answers to two rhetorical challenges.
Remember when Nancy Pelosi said, “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in,” but we’re going to get Obamacare passed. The administration is doing some fancy pole-vaulting of its own.
CMS acting chief Andy Slavitt told Congress recently he is working on plans to bail out the insurers. The first plan is to lobby Congress to extend the risk corridors program and put more money into it. As designed, the program merely redistributes money from profitable insurers to unprofitable insurers but, as it turned out, so many insurers are unprofitable that they are only getting 13 cents on the dollar of what they expected through risk corridor subsidies. The second plan is to draw on the government’s Judgment Fund to settle court cases insurers have filed over the low risk corridor payments. Congress appropriates money to settle lawsuits and pay judgments, but the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the Congressional Research Service have both warned that the Judgment Fund is not available to subsidize insurers; separate appropriations would be required. Forty House Republicans warned HHS this week against any and all unlawful attempts to bail out the insurers through the risk corridor program.
The third plan being cooked up is to extend the reinsurance subsidy and forgive the illegal transfer of $5 billion from an Obamacare tax on insurers back to them instead of sending it to the U.S. Treasury as the law required. The GAO said this week that the diversion of funds is illegal. Meanwhile, conservative groups are active on Capitol Hill trying to stave off any insurer bailout in the lame duck session.
Moving on to the GOP: I’ve mentioned previously that some Republicans are signaling they are willing to fix Obamacare, not repeal it, if Hillary Clinton is elected. Eight to 10 Republican Senators are ready to do so, according to an email from a senior GOP aide. Senator Chuck Grassley said the Constitution would require the Senate to work with the new President and the process would be controlled by what Hillary Clinton wanted. Wrong on both counts, as the override of President Obama’s veto of the Saudi Arabia bill showed this week. I would ask you to press the importance of full repeal in your discussions with your elected representatives over the next few months. Repeal Obamacare; don’t try to fix the unfixable.
Now for the rhetorical items. Our friend Phil Kerpen at American Commitment notes that Obamacare supporters are scapegoating pharmaceutical companies and prescription drug prices for Obamacare’s failures and higher healthcare costs. So when you hear someone blaming prescription prices for the high cost of healthcare, go right back to Obamacare’s sky-rocketing insurance premiums and over-regulation for the real reasons healthcare costs continue to go up faster than inflation.
Finally, Obamacare was sold on the basis that it would cover preexisting conditions. ACA supporters have taken to saying, if Obamacare were to be repealed, preexisting condition coverage – which is very popular – would be lost. A recent story in Forbes reminds us that 36 or so states had hi-risk pools to handle this problem prior to Obamacare. You can remind people that It didn’t take turning the world upside down and creating 160 new government agencies, like Obamacare did, to address the preexisting condition problem. State hi-risk pools are a good answer.
O-admin going thru the gate, pole-vaulting, parachuting in to get subsidies for insurers
Justice Dept’s Ofc of Legal Counsel says agencies must seek appropriations to subsidize insurers thru Judgment Fund
CRS warns Judgment Fund not available to subsidize insurers; HHS must seek separate appropriations http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-looming-backdoor-bailout-for-obamacare/article/2603264
40 House Republicans warn O-admin against unlawful insurer bailouts
GAO: diversion to insurers of reinsurance money bound for U.S. Treasury illegal.
Conservative groups are active on Capitol Hill trying to stave off any insurer bailouts in the lame duck session.
Bad news: eight to 10 republican senators ready to cave on Obamacare if Hillary wins. #RepealObamacareNow
ACA supporters scapegoating prescription drugs for Obamacare’s failures and higher costs
State hi-risk pools, not Obamacare tyranny, the answer to preexisting conditions coverage