GOP Senator: CSR Payments Are a Bailout But We Need Them

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Will Congressional Republicans pass the Alexander-Murray bill that will fund cost sharing subsidies and make other small changes to the Affordable Care Act?

At this point it seems unlikely. The bill has some Republican support in the Senate, but Speaker Paul Ryan as ruled out a vote in the House. In each case, the bill's opponents are arguing in extremely bad faith, alleging that it's a "bailout" of insurers when, in reality, the goal is to reduce individual premiums for average people.

And there's another problem. Even the Republicans who supposedly support the bill are saying bad things about it. Senator Ron Johnson, for example, is speaking out of both sides of his stupid mouth.

The former co-sponsor of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill says it's a bailout but he also admits cutting off the so-called bailout will actually cost more.

“I’m hoping everybody understands how much resistance there is for funding these Obamacare markets that will never be self-sustaining,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has been talking with House Republicans about an alternative plan. “It’s a very legitimate point of view from conservatives.” [...]

Not funding CSRs cause premiums to increase and is literally costing American taxpayers more money,” he said. “That’s a hard little reality to get everybody to acknowledge, but it’s the truth.”

Ron Johnson and empirical reality are two things I would not ordinarily pair together and, apparently, they're two things Ron Johnson himself rarely pairs together.

But he's not wrong, at least not in the latter half of his muttering. Paying the cost-sharing subsidies costs less than not paying them because the resulting increase in individual premiums will also increase the federal government's share of individual premium subsidies.

It's pretty simple and easy to understand, but a majority of Republicans in Congress are committed to arguing in bad faith. Some, like Ron Johnson, are committed to arguing in bad faith and telling the truth at the same time.

This is par for the course for Ron Johnson. He co-sponsored a bill that would have cut Medicaid funding for other states while directing more to his own. At some level he understands that there are benefits to having government subsidies health care, but he's also a self-interested politician.

  • Badgerite

    The CRS payments are not a “bailout”. They are a cost sharing mechanism that allow companies that have a pool of more chronically ill people to not be punished by the legal requirement that they insure them. The ACA has a provision which prevents insurance companies from profiting from premium payments beyond a 20% cap. 80% of any premium payments are to go, by law, toward providing medical treatment to patients. This is no bailout but it is a provision that is crucial to the requirement that insurance companies cover all comers. Even those with pre-existing and chronic conditions that will cost them more in providing treatments. To not fund these will spike insurance premiums for everyone because the insurance companies are businesses that need to cover costs and without the CRS payments, the legal requirement that they insure all who apply even those with costly chronic and pre-existing conditions would make it impossible for them to make money as a business. To stop the CRS payments is just another way of attacking the requirement that health insurers cover pre-existing conditions. We have seen this before in the proposed GOP legislation in the provisions that would allow states to decide to waive the requirement of essential benefits to where health insurance might cover a hang nail but not much more. And in the proposed legislation that would have required that pre-existing conditions be covered but would also have allowed states to legislate levels of premiums payments that no one but the wealthy could afford.
    trump is just trying to do through executive order what the Congress tried to do through proposed legislation, which is destroy the affordable part of the Affordable Care Act for the average American. And set Americans against each other.
    As in “why do my premiums have to go up to pay for so and so’s pre-existing condition”? Well, they don’t. And it will cost the taxpayers more in the long run to see that your premiums do go up as trump proposes that they should through executive order. Because as premiums go up, the subsidies required under the ACA will have to go up as well.
    No one wins under this scenario but the people who do not want average Americans to be able to afford health insurance.
    Apparently that is the current occupant of the White House as well as all the leadership of the GOP.
    Ron Johnson is a given in that crowd.

  • Man, they’ve gone down an unfortunate road in deciding to call these payments “bailouts”. It’s political spin and will make things much, much harder to fix.

    • Draxiar

      It’s a “bailout” if it’s for something they hate and it’s “job creation” for something they like.