Insurers slam GOP spending bill for capping risk corridor payments

Insurers are blasting a Republican-backed Congressional spending bill, saying it will cut vital federal payments and lead to an increase in healthcare costs.

The $1.01 trillion omnibus bill, which will fund the federal government through September 2015, includes a provision to cap payments that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can make to the Affordable Care Act's risk corridor program, The Hill reported.

Republican lawmakers and other conservatives have pushed back against the risk corridor program, believing it's tantamount to a government bailout of insurance companies, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Insurers say that, without the additional risk corridor funds to help support insurers that don't enroll as many consumers through the health insurance exchanges, premiums will increase.

Although the spending bill would still allow HHS to administer the risk corridor payments, it prohibits the agency from spending any more money than it takes in, reported the National Journal. This would limit any payments HHS could make if insurers have particularly low enrollments in the exchanges.

A spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has championed the criticism of the risk corridor, praised the decision to cut the payments.

HHS must now manage the program "in a budget-neutral fashion, as opposed to unlawfully providing for a taxpayer bailout," said Alex Conant, The Hill noted. "While there is much in this massive spending measure that is deeply troubling, at least this provision appears to be a step in the right direction."

To learn more:
- read The Hill article
- see the National Journal article