Court complicates Trump's threat to cut 'Obamacare' funds

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 2, 2017

Trump said on Twitter over the weekend.

"If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?"

While the CSRs aren't pocket change, taxpayers could end up footing an even bigger bill if the Trump administration shuts off the spigot, according to the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care issues.

"I'm here in DC because of what's happening in health care", he said.

But as Mother Jones has explained previously, if Trump cuts off the reimbursements to insurance companies it would create chaos in the insurance markets, causing prices to soar and possibly leading some companies to stop offering coverage. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions would begin holding health care hearings in September.

Their insurance departments did not throw up their hands and declare Obamacare a failure.

What "bailouts" was Trump referring to?

The judges also reasoned that states could be harmed if the cost-sharing payments were cut off because increased insurance prices could translate into more uninsured residents for whom state needed to provide health care, including at public hospitals. The subsidy payments compensate insurance companies for some out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income consumers, without which the insurance marketplace could collapse. "The federal money that goes to insurers in these payments. offsets the money insurers lose by lowering the deductibles and co-payments they require of these policyholders". The ruling could make it more hard for the White House to carry out recent threats by President Donald Trump to cut off the payments, giving legal standing to a new set of the payments' defenders. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, for example, is seeking a 40 percent increase next year - and that's based on the assumption cost-sharing subsidies continue, said spokeswoman Debbie Diamond. "If you are an insurance company, you generally want more customers, not less". Low- and middle-income consumers who benefit from the CSRs could face higher-deductible plans.

As for the congressional "bailouts" - that's a bit more complicated.

The facts: Although Trump's tweet may suggest otherwise, members of Congress and their staff do get their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. But an unintentional loophole in the language initially threatened to drive up costs for lawmakers and staffers by substantial margins, compared to other federal employees. It could be a reference to a dispute over whether Trump will continue cost-sharing payments to insurers.

"Many of these people leaving the nongroup market could also increase premiums for higher-income people who would remain in the market, since many of those enrolled with tax credits are healthy", said Blumberg.

Most lawmakers dismissed the tweet.

"I do think that in the end, reason and compassion will prevail in DC", Schlosser said. You'd have to ask the president.

A USA appeals court on Tuesday allowed Democratic state attorneys general to defend subsidy payments to insurance companies under the Obamacare healthcare law, a critical part of funding for the statute that President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off. "There's just too much animosity and we're too divided on healthcare", Hatch said in an interview with Reuters.

Trump's threat did get support from an occasional GOP critic: South Carolina Sen. "We haven't tried all our options yet". See also "Idiocracy." By threatening Congress from a position of utter weakness (38 percent approval rating, via Gallup), the president is not only crippling his own legislative agenda, he's making enemies out of allies.

But with Senate leaders making it clear they're moving on to other issues, the question is now whether Trump follows through on his threat.

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