The debt ceiling is probably going to have to be raised by the end of February, and Republicans are looking for their hostage. Not being a particularly creative bunch, they are of course looking for that hostage in Obamacare, and they found something they think will cripple it. They’re calling it the insurance company "bailout," a provision in the law that keeps premiums lower.

This "bailout" is officially called a "risk corridor," set up for the first few years of the law to give insurance companies some buffer as they implement the regulations that force them to take on more expensive patients. It holds down premiums for the first few years of the law, and is financed by insurance companies who end up with healthier pools of patients, paying out to the insurers who enroll sicker people. If the amount coming in is less than what insurers are paying out, the federal government makes up the difference. (Jonathon Cohn has a good primer on how it works.) The key point is that without that buffer, boom, higher premiums for everyone else as insurers look to minimize losses.

That’s what Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are counting on, because higher premiums and less money for insurance companies will make the law even more unpopular, and more unstable.

"There are issues with Obamacare," Ryan said Thursday at a San Antonio event, as quoted by Politico. "A lot of folks don’t realize there could be some massive insurance company bailouts in the near future with Obamacare that a lot of taxpayers probably didn’t know about that we don’t want to see happen. That’s one of the issues that’s in the realm of possibility. There are a lot of things … that are being discussed but its just not in our interest to negotiate in the media." […] Legislation to repeal the risk corridor provision has been introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and several House Republicans. The effort is backed by conservative lobbying groups such as Heritage Action and Club For Growth and has recently become a leading cause for anti-Obamacare writers. Prominent conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Ramesh Ponnuru argue that repealing the risk corridors could damage Obamacare by raising premiums.

Of course Republicans are couching it as a insurance company bailout, because they don’t want you to know about that higher premium part. They don’t care if you have to pay more for insurance, just like they don’t give a damn if you even have health care coverage if that means they might be able to kill the law.


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