(Bloomberg) — An Affordable Care Act fund that Republicans criticized as a “bailout” of insurance companies has resurfaced as a similar provision in the Senate GOP’s Better Care Reconciliation Act health care plan — though this time the objections are more muted.
The new bill’s $50 billion market-stability fund is intended to protect insurers that cover large numbers of customers with more-costly health problems from having to raise their premiums for the next four years.
It’s much like an Affordable Care Act provision known as risk corridors that drew Republican fire. In December 2014, amid a push by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Congress tacked a provision onto a spending bill limiting the funds that could be paid to insurers with poor exchange plan performance.
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Jesse Lee, a former aide to President Barack Obama, labeled it “one of the great acts of ACA sabotage.”
There’s “no difference” between the insurer funds in Obamacare and the ones in the Senate Republican bill, said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law at George Washington University.
Tim Jost, a health policy specialist and professor emeritus at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, said the provision is not a bailout but rather a policy designed “to reduce the reluctance of insurers to take on high-cost enrollees and make it more attractive for them to do so.”
Jost said Democrats didn’t include enough reinsurance and stability funds in the Affordable Care Act and they “phased out really quickly,” causing premiums to rise.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Rubio touted his role in restricting the insurer funds. “When they passed Obamacare, they put a bailout fund in Obamacare,” he said in a GOP primary debate on Feb. 25, 2016, arguing that lobbyists “put a bailout fund in the law that would allow public money to be used, taxpayer money, to bail out companies when they lost money.”
Asked Monday if he has similar concerns about the insurer funds in the Republican health care bill, Rubio said he’s reviewing the provision.