Republican Tax Leader Seeks to Restore Obamacare Funds

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By Alex Ruoff

The head of the House’s tax-writing panel is in talks with health officials to restore an Obamacare program that compensated health insurers who have sicker enrollees.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters July 16 he has “engaged” with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about restoring what are known as risk-adjustment payments, worth about $10.4 billion for insurers last year, which were suspended by the Trump administration recently. The payments are part of a program in the Affordable Care Act meant to help balance the insurance markets when some insurers inevitably got stuck with sicker, more costly patients.

“The administration wants to restore these payments, so we’re looking at ways that we can help them do that,” Brady said.

Brady said people are being “hammered under Obamacare” and need help from rising health insurance premiums.

He said the House will take up several health measures soon, including one retroactively suspending the employer mandate in the ACA and a repeal of the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices.

Brady is the first prominent Republican to publicly ask the Trump administration to restore the risk-adjustment payments, which are collected from some insurers with healthier populations and given to others with sicker populations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said earlier this month that a ruling by the federal trial court in New Mexico prevented the agency from making the payments.

Some smaller insurers have criticized the risk-adjustment program, saying it benefits more established insurers that have the resources to identify more of their customers’ ailments. The lawsuit that led the CMS to halt payments resulted from a challenge by an insurer in New Mexico that said the program’s rules were arbitrary and unfair.

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