If I told you our healthcare system was broken, you probably would not be surprised. If I told you Obamacare has limited your healthcare options or driven up healthcare costs, you would not be surprised. If I told you that 16 of the 23 Obamacare co-ops have failed, disrupting insurance for over 800,000 consumers, you would likely have the same reaction. But what if I told you that to prop up President Obama's failing healthcare law, federal bureaucrats were stealing $3.5 billion from you and giving it instead to insurance companies? Well, it's happening.
To mitigate the high costs of Obamacare's mandates, the bill created three programs, one of which was the Transitional Reinsurance Program. The three-year reinsurance program required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to collect $25 billion from insurers. Of this, the law mandated that HHS send $5 billion directly to the U.S. Treasury to pay down Obamacare's costs on the American people: $2 billion in 2014, $2 billion in 2015, and $1 billion in 2016. The other $20 billion was to be paid back to insurers for covering patients in the exchanges.
So naturally, the Obama administration followed the law they wrote and forced on Americans, and, in the end, the Treasury received all of the funds it was supposed to, right? Of course not. Despite $4 billion already being due, the Treasury has only received $500 million. Instead, the money required by law to be paid to the Treasury alone is now being sent to well-connected insurance companies, increasing the financial burden of Obamacare on the American people and protecting a failing healthcare experiment. This is a clear violation of the law — a law that this administration wrote itself. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded doing this was "in conflict with a plain reading of [the Affordable Care Act]."
In Washington, this kind of lawlessness gets overlooked too much. Federal bureaucrats are not above the laws they force upon the American people. That is why today I am introducing the Taxpayers Before Insurers Act. My bill is simple: I want HHS to follow the law it helped write. It would require HHS to pay the $3.5 billion it has taken from taxpayers back to the Treasury or face a 50 percent cut in its operating budget.
This should not be a partisan idea: the government should follow the law and prioritize the people it serves over big insurance companies. Obamacare is failing on all fronts. It's not working for patients. It's not working for doctors. And it's not working for insurance companies either. But that does not mean taxpayers should be cheated through a corporate welfare system that rewards the well-connected. The Taxpayers Before Insurers Act would protect Americans from being forced to pay even more for Obamacare's failures and enforce the rule of law.
Representative Mark Walker is honored to serve North Carolina's 6th Congressional District. He sits on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee on Homeland Security, and the Committee on House Administration. Follow him at @RepMarkWalker.Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.