Trump to halt sub­si­dies to health in­sur­ers

Bid to kill Oba­macare likely to trig­ger law­suits, spike in pre­mi­ums for next year

Times Colonist - - World -

WASH­ING­TON — In a brash move likely to roil in­sur­ance mar­kets, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump plans to halt pay­ments to in­sur­ers un­der the Obama-era health care law he has been try­ing to un­ravel for months.

Two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the de­ci­sion de­scribed the plan late Thurs­day night, seek­ing anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

The White House said in a state­ment that the govern­ment can­not legally con­tinue to pay the so-called cost-shar­ing sub­si­dies be­cause they lack a for­mal au­tho­riza­tion by Con­gress. How­ever, the ad­min­is­tra­tion had been mak­ing the pay­ments from month to month, even as Trump threat­ened to cut them off to force Democrats to ne­go­ti­ate over health care.

The pres­i­dent’s ac­tion is likely to trig­ger a law­suit from state at­tor­neys gen­eral, who con­tend the sub­si­dies to in­sur­ers are fully au­tho­rized by fed­eral law, and say the pres­i­dent’s po­si­tion is reck­less. Among the likely con­se­quences: a spike in pre­mi­ums for next year.

The top two Democrats in Con­gress sharply de­nounced the Trump plan in a joint state­ment.

“It is a spite­ful act of vast, point­less sab­o­tage lev­elled at work­ing fam­i­lies and the mid­dle class in ev­ery cor­ner of Amer­ica,” said House and Sen­ate Demo­cratic lead­ers Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia and Chuck Schumer of New York.

“Make no mis­take about it, Trump will try to blame the Af­ford­able Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

Word of Trump’s plan came on a day when the pres­i­dent had also signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der di­rect­ing govern­ment agen­cies to de­sign in­sur­ance plans that would of­fer lower pre­mi­ums out­side the re­quire­ments of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act.

Frus­trated over set­backs in Con­gress, Trump is wield­ing his ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to bring the “re­peal and re­place” de­bate to a head. He ap­pears to be fol­low­ing through on his vow to pun­ish Democrats and in­sur­ers af­ter the fail­ure of Re­pub­li­can health-care leg­is­la­tion.

On Twit­ter, Trump has termed the pay­ments to in­sur­ers a “bailout,” but it’s un­clear if the pres­i­dent will get Democrats to ne­go­ti­ate by stop­ping pay­ment.

Ex­perts have warned that cut­ting off the money would lead to a dou­ble-digit spike in pre­mi­ums, on top of in­creases in­sur­ers al­ready planned for next year. That would de­liver an­other blow to mar­kets around the coun­try al­ready frag­ile from in­sur­ers ex­it­ing and costs ris­ing.

In­sur­ers, hospi­tals, doc­tors’ groups, state of­fi­cials and the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce have urged the ad­min­is­tra­tion to keep pay­ing.

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