Lawmaker Questions $111B Boost in Subsidies for Insurance Exchanges
On Friday, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asked the Obama administration to explain why its fiscal year 2013 budget proposal included $111 billion more than last year for subsidies to help people purchase coverage through the exchanges created by the federal health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/2).
During two hearings this last week, Camp and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) asked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to detail the reasons for the increase, but they were unsatisfied with her answers.
Following up with Geithner, Camp in his letter asked whether the increase reflects new Obama administration estimates of the premiums that insurers will charge in the state health insurance exchanges. He also asked for estimates on how many U.S. residents will receive coverage through the exchanges (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 3/2).
Camp wrote, "This staggering increase in health insurance exchange subsidy spending cannot be explained by legislative changes or new economic assumptions, and therefore must reflect substantial changes in underlying assumptions regarding the program's utilization and cost."
Response From Administration, Democrats
Sabrina Siddiqui, a spokesperson for the Treasury Department, said the "estimates do not assume changes in what the exchanges will look like, the cost of insurance or the number of Americans who will get their insurance in this new marketplace."
Democrats dismissed the investigation and said the increase in subsidies is more than offset by cuts in Medicaid spending.
Nadeam Elshami, communications director for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said, "Republicans know full well that this is the result of revised technical estimates and changes in the law that reduce costs for Medicaid, but they will say anything in their quest to put insurance companies back in charge" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.