The Obama administration is maneuvering to pay health insurers billions of dollars the government owes under the Affordable Care Act through a move that could circumvent Congress. Justice Department officials have privately told several health plans suing over the unpaid money that they are eager to negotiate a broad settlement, which could end up offering payments to about 175 health plans selling coverage on ACA marketplaces. The payments likely would draw from an obscure Treasury Department fund intended to cover federal legal claims, controverting congressional will and intent.

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Despite the maze of federal rules, taxes, and penalties Obamacare has created, Democrats are doubling down on government interference in health care by advocating for an old, already passed-upon idea: a government-run plan option, or a so-called “public option.” They forget why this idea was not included in their original plan: it simply doesn’t work. In a health system that values innovation, choice, first rate care, and groundbreaking treatments for patients, market forces must be at play to drive efficiency and effectiveness from not only hospitals and doctors, but insurers as well.

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The Obama administration is illegally refusing to make payments to the U.S. Treasury and instead is giving funds collected under Obamacare to insurers, according to a new report from an independent government watchdog, the Government Accountability Office. The funds in question were collected as part of Obamacare’s reinsurance program, and the GAO confirmed that under law, part of the money collected must be deposited into federal coffers, not sent to insurers to prop up ObamaCare.

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UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer, is scaling back its experiment in Obamacare markets as its Harken Health Insurance Co. startup withdraws from the two exchanges where it was selling plans. Harken will not offer individual plans through Obamacare exchanges in Georgia and Chicago in 2017, the company said Thursday in an e-mailed statement.

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Republican senators are pressing the Obama administration for information on what they say could be a “bailout” of insurance companies under ObamaCare.

Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.) wrote a letter to the administration warning against financial settlements with insurance companies. Those companies have sued over a shortfall in an ObamaCare program known as risk corridors.

“We write to express our grave concerns regarding the potential participation of your departments in a multibillion dollar bailout of select health insurance companies through the Affordable Care Act’s Risk Corridors Program,” the senators wrote.

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When Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey announced recently that it’s $46 million in debt and shutting down, it became the 17th failed ObamaCare co-op since the Affordable Care Act launched three years ago.

Those failures – just six of the original 23 co-ops remain – have left hundreds of thousands of people scrambling for coverage.

Meanwhile, insurers claiming big losses are leaving some state exchanges — including Indiana University Health Plans, whose exit is expected to result in 27,000 Indiana residents losing ObamaCare plans in 2017. And companies still operating in the federal and state exchanges are raising premiums for next year.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) administers the 3-year transitional reinsurance program established under section 1341 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The program, which is financed by statutorily required contributions from participating health insurance issuers and group health plans, makes payments to eligible issuers, to stabilize health insurance premiums and encourage issuer participation in the health insurance markets. Section 1341 designates a specified amount of collections from issuers for reinsurance payments and also directs the deposit of a specified amount of collections in the general fund of the United States Treasury (Treasury). HHS asserts that when collections fall short of the amounts specified in statute the agency has authority to allocate all collections for reinsurance payments, making deposits in the Treasury only if collections reach the amounts specified for reinsurance payments in section 1341. HHS lacks authority to ignore the statute’s directive to deposit amounts from collections under the transitional reinsurance program in the Treasury and is required to collect and deposit amounts for the Treasury, regardless of whether its collections fall short of the amounts specified in statute for reinsurance payments. HHS may not use amounts collected for the Treasury to make reinsurance payments.

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The Obama administration failed to follow the president’s health care law in a $5 billion dispute over compensating insurers for high costs from seriously ill patients, Congress’ investigative arm said Thursday.

The opinion from the Government Accountability Office is a setback for the White House and bolsters Republican complaints that administration officials bent the law as problems arose carrying out its complex provisions. The finding may complicate efforts to stabilize premiums in the law’s insurance marketplaces, where about 11 million people get coverage.

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Based on rate increases proposed to North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, state residents who have signed up for Obamacare could face a 19 percent to 25 percent jump in the cost of their health coverage for 2017, Republican Sen. Richard Burr says.

Further, because major health insurers have suffered losses and are exiting the program, in 90 percent of North Carolina counties, residents enrolled in President Barack Obama’s signature health care program will only have one plan from which to choose in their so-called marketplace, Burr wrote in an op ed published in the online North State Journal.

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About 27,000 Hoosiers will lose their Obamacare plans next year after Indiana University Health Plans announced it is withdrawing from the Indiana marketplace, citing big losses from the new enrollees. It had covered 15% of marketplace enrollees last year. Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican, said the announcement from IU Health Plans is evidence the healthcare law is “collapsing before our eyes.”  “Because of the broken Obamacare system, Hoosiers continue to face rising premiums and limited choices rather than reliable, affordable healthcare,” Coats said.

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