Democrats seek to resolve health payments on spending bill

Trump's mixed messages on Obamacare subsidies could prompt insurers to flee

Trump's mixed messages on Obamacare subsidies could prompt insurers to flee

Get ready for another big congressional fight over Obamacare.

If insurers lose the payments, they warn they will either have to spike premiums or drop out of the market altogether.

"I don't want people to get hurt", Trump told The Wall Street Journal. It called the Times report incorrect, said Obamacare was failing, and attacked Democrats for not working with Trump and Republicans on healthcare.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said Thursday that Democrats "will not negotiate with hostage takers". In other words, another government shutdown over Obamacare could be in the offing.

"On the other hand, President Trump has made comments about the market exploding and letting that happen". The move predictably set off plenty of hysteria and political hyperbole from Democrats, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi already crying foul about how this move threatens health coverage for millions of Americans.

Democrats, predictably, are having none of it.

The Trump team says it's making this subsidy cutoff threat in order to get the Democrats to come to the bargaining table on the new health-care bill. That's $61,500 for a family of four. "Withholding these payments is a blatant attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act and manufacture a crisis". House Republicans then launched a lawsuit over the payments. The court agreed, but allowed the payments to continue as the Obama administration filed an appeal.

The federal government pays these subsidies to health insurers directly.

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Trump told The Wall Street Journal that he was not sure if his administration would keep paying the cost-sharing reduction payments per the Affordable Care Act law, notes CNN. Insurers, doctors, hospitals and the business community have asked Trump to preserve ACA cost-sharing subsidies that pare down high deductibles and copayments for consumers with modest incomes. Instead, they'd be required by law to keep offering them ― and to account for the extra expense by raising premiums for everyone.

Analyst Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said the new rules will be "meaningless" in encouraging insurance companies to stay in the market if the government ends cost-sharing subsidy payments.

This is exactly what insurers are anxious about. A group of leading health care organizations - including the American Medical Association and the US Chamber of Commerce - have urged the government to continue paying the subsidies. Only one company is offering marketplace health plans this year in Alaska, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming.

The coming spending bill would be an obvious place to try that, because, unlike most of the bills that go through the House these days, it will probably end up passing with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes ― over the objections of the most conservative members. A district court judge a year ago ruled in favor of the House, finding the subsidies were illegal because Congress never appropriated the money.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Trump made it clear that he still hasn't figured out that a government can not be run like a business. "That's an obligation not only to insurers but also to the people who took on those plans". They would leave as soon as they were legally able to.

But that was before Trump made his statements about withholding the subsidies ― and it's not clear what House Republicans will do if Trump decides to oppose the funding strongly.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration released limited fixes Thursday for shaky health insurance markets, but insurers quickly said those actions won't guarantee stability for millions of consumers now covered.

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