By Sheryl Estrada
Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio intended to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a 2010 law also known as Obamacare. Rubio believes he accomplished his goal, which puts him ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a staunch opponent to Obamacare also vying for the Republican presidential nomination.
"Whether it's him or anybody else, everybody running for president on the Republican side wants to repeal Obamacare," Rubio said in an interview on Tuesday. "I'm the only one running that's actually ever scored a victory against Obamacare."
Last year he incorporated a little-noticed provision into the enormous "CRomnibus" spending bill, which passed just hours before a midnight deadline and gutted the risk corridor in ACA. The provision prevents the Department of Health and Human Services from rearranging funds to protect insurance companies against financial losses.
The first three years under the health law allowed for the risk corridor program to make up the difference if insurers miscalculate the amount of money it will cost to insure Obamacare exchange clients. The need for risk corridors would lessen once insurers got a better sense of how to set prices accurately.
Rubio argued the program would lead to taxpayer bailouts of insurers. He boasted his hidden provision saved taxpayers $2.5 billion in bailout money. Fact-checking site PolitiFact rated his assertion "mostly false."
His sabotage will result in the federal government paying only 13 percent of the amount expected by insurance companies this year, which is much less than the $2.9 billion requested by insurers that saw losses on the exchanges.
In the wake of the unexpected payment reduction, some insurers have already shut down.
Dawn Bonder, president of Health Republic of Oregon, said her insurance co-op will be forced to close its doors after receiving only $995,000 of the $7.9 million expected from the federal government.
"Risk corridors have become a political football," Bonder told the New York Times. "We were stable, had a growing membership and could have been successful if we had received those payments."
On Nov. 24 Rubio's presidential campaign sent out the following tweet on Twitter:
— Team Marco (@TeamMarco) November 24, 2015
Rubio did not kill the ACA, but according to an expert on the act, he fulfilled much of what the Republicans desire to do, which is at the expense of Americans seeking health care.
"It did draw some blood," Tim Jost, health law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said in November. "The restriction on funding is probably the most effective thing Republicans have done so far to limit the Affordable Care Act, other than the Supreme Court decision [in 2012] and subsequent decisions by Republican states not to expand Medicaid."
Republican leaders are against risk corridors, but it was something the party created to "smooth out" rate increases in prescription drug coverage under Medicare. Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Former House Republican Leader John Boehner voted in 2003 to create Medicare Part D.
Politico Magazine reports: "An innovative part of the law McConnell and Boehner voted for was its 'risk corridors' program, a new idea back in 2003 … At the time, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) described the Part D risk corridors as one of the 'incentives that the secretary can use' to get the new plans started 'in a strong way' …"
Meanwhile, the ACA has been considerably assisting Latinos and Blacks. That progress may be deterred by Rubio's actions.
According to a new study published in the journal Medical Care, "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care Access and Utilization Under the Affordable Care Act," the act has significantly improved insurance coverage and use of health care for Blacks and Latinos.
The study, led by researchers in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, analyzed data from the 2011-2014 National Health Interview Survey. The survey asked questions about health care access and utilization among U.S. adults (ages 18-64), including non-Latino whites, Latinos, Blacks and other racial and ethnic groups.
"Since the ACA took effect in 2014, the rates of uninsured African Americans and Latinos were reduced by 7 percent, as compared to 3 percent for whites," Dr. Jie Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Maryland, said. "We also found that these groups were more likely to visit a primary care doctor and receive timely health care than before the ACA coverage began."