The Obama administration is looking at using a little-known fund to bypass Congress and pay insurance providers who are owed money under the Affordable Care Act, The Washington Post reports.
The Justice Department has told insurance companies suing the government it wants to settle the claims, and the Post reports that the money would likely come from the Judgment Fund set up in the 1950s to cover claims against the federal government.
The fund is given as much money as necessary to cover payouts to plaintiffs.
The non-partisan Government Accountability Office on Thursday criticized the White House for not paying out $5 billion owed to insurance companies over the high costs they incurred for providing coverage to seriously ill patients.
Dipping into the Judgment Fund would skirt the efforts of the Republican-controlled Congress to prevent such payouts. The GOP still strongly opposes the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, and has said the ACA provisions allowing for such payouts are essentially bailouts for the insurance industry.
"It's an end run on the clear … intent of Congress," Virginia Rep. H. Morgan Griffith told the Post.
The program was intended to bring reluctant insurance companies onboard by creating "risk corridors" in which companies that had lower expenses from new customers would pay into a fund that would compensate those with higher costs. The risk corridors began in 2014 and end this December.
But when Republicans took over both houses of Congress in 2014, they prevented the Department of Health and Human Services from using any of its money for the program.
That lack of funding has helped usher in the collapse of most of the 23 healthcare exchanges set up to administer the ACA and sparked lawsuits from four of them along with seven private insurance companies.
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