Editorial: Obamacare bailout would ignore the law

The Detroit News

The problems for the Affordable Care Act keep mounting. And as President Barack Obama’s tenure is nearing an end, his administration is desperate to keep Obamacare afloat. That’s not a good excuse to skirt Congress — and the law.

Given the higher premiums and fewer choices facing consumers, a major do-over of the health care law is warranted, not a bailout of a failing framework.

Even former President Bill Clinton this week declared the higher premiums and deductibles resulting from the law “crazy.”

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is driving home that message as he travels the country supporting Republican members of Congress in their election bids. On Monday, Ryan made several stops in Michigan, including Oakland County. In a meeting with the Detroit News editorial board and several other reporters, Ryan plugged his Better Way agenda — which includes a plan for revamping Obamacare.

His reform blueprint is especially relevant given what the Obama administration is doing to prop up the failing law.

Anticipating the limits put on premiums for higher risk customers, the law tried to ease the burden by asking insurers that made money to pay into a fund that would supplement the companies that suffered losses.

These risk corridors were supposed to be budget neutral, but guess what? It didn’t work out that way.

As older, sicker individuals have flooded the insurance exchanges and young, healthy ones have avoided them, insurers have suffered. Not enough profitable companies exist to bail out the ones not making money.

That’s why some of the major players in the exchanges have pulled out or sharply cut back their involvement, including United Healthcare, Aetna and Humana. Fewer insurers are, in turn, leading to spiking premiums.

So the administration has tried to make up the difference in the risk corridors fund with billions of dollars of Health and Human Services money. Congress has smartly blocked that attempt because the law specifically states no taxpayer funds can go to these risk corridors.

Desperate to keep insurers on board, the White House is now looking to bypass Congress via the Justice Department, which plans to get the money through the Treasury’s Judgment Fund so it can settle lawsuits brought by insurance companies seeking risk corridor payments.

This convoluted scheme is a clear slap in the face to Congress.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, along with several other GOP senators including Florida’s Marco Rubio, recently wrote a letter to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments warning, “the Congressional Research Service has already found that the Judgment Fund may not be used to settle risk corridor claims,” Lee explained in The Daily Signal.

Obamacare’s failures should not fall to taxpayers. What is needed is a massive overhaul of the law — one such as Ryan advocates.