Trump to de­cide soon on end­ing health pay­ments

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The White House is in­sist­ing that the Se­nate re­sume ef­forts to re­peal and re­place the na­tion’s health care law, sig­nal­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump stands ready to end re­quired pay­ments to in­sur­ers this week to let “Oba­macare im­plode” and force con­gres­sional ac­tion. “The pres­i­dent will not ac­cept those who said it’s, quote, ‘Time to move on,’” White House ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way said.

Those were the words used by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., af­ter the stun­ning early Fri­day morn­ing de­feat of the GOP bill to re­peal for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment. McCon­nell is al­ready mov­ing to other busi­ness, hav­ing sched­uled Se­nate con­sid­er­a­tion on a ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tion.

Con­way said Trump was de­cid­ing whether to act on his threat to end cost-shar­ing re­duc­tion pay­ments, which are aimed at trim­ming out-of-pocket costs for lower-in­come peo­ple. “He’s go­ing to make that de­ci­sion this week, and that’s a de­ci­sion that only he can make,” Con­way said. Trump vented his frus­tra­tion on Twit­ter yes­ter­day. He said: “If Oba­maCare is hurt­ing peo­ple, & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the in­surance com­pa­nies & why should Congress not be pay­ing what pub­lic pays?”

For seven years, Repub­li­cans have promised that once they took power, they would scrap Obama’s over­haul and pass a re­place­ment. But that ef­fort crashed most re­cently in the Se­nate Fri­day. Repub­li­cans hold a 52-48 ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, where no Democrats voted for the GOP bill and three Repub­li­cans de­fected in the fi­nal vote Fri­day. One of the GOP de­fec­tors, Sen. John McCain, has since re­turned to Ari­zona for treat­ment for brain can­cer. “Don’t give up Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, the World is watch­ing: Re­peal & Re­place,” Trump said in a tweet. White House bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney, when asked Sun­day if no other leg­isla­tive busi­ness should be taken up un­til the Se­nate acts again on health care, re­sponded “yes.”

While the House has be­gun a five-week re­cess, the Se­nate is sched­uled to work two more weeks be­fore a sum­mer break. McCon­nell has said the un­fin­ished busi­ness in­cludes ad­dress­ing a back­log of ex­ec­u­tive and ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions, com­ing ahead of a busy agenda in Septem­ber that in­volves pass­ing a de­fense spend­ing bill and rais­ing the gov­ern­ment’s bor­row­ing limit. “In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Se­nate,” Mul­vaney said, re­fer­ring to health leg­is­la­tion. “They need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass some­thing.”

Trump warned over the week­end that he would end fed­eral sub­si­dies for health care in­surance for Congress and the rest of the coun­try if the Se­nate didn’t act soon. He was re­fer­ring in part to a fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion for law­mak­ers and their staffs, who were moved onto Oba­macare in­surance ex­changes as part of the 2010 law. “If a new HealthCare Bill is not ap­proved quickly, BAILOUTS for In­surance Com­pa­nies and BAILOUTS for Mem­bers of Congress will end very soon!” Trump tweeted. The sub­si­dies, to­tal­ing about $7 bil­lion a year, help re­duce de­ductibles and co­pay­ments for con­sumers with mod­est in­comes. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion used its rule-mak­ing au­thor­ity to set di­rect pay­ments to in­sur­ers to help off­set th­ese costs. Trump in­her­ited the pay­ment struc­ture, but he also has the power to end them.

The pay­ments are the sub­ject of a law­suit brought by House Repub­li­cans over whether the health law specif­i­cally in­cluded a con­gres­sional ap­pro­pri­a­tion for the money, as re­quired un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. Trump has only guar­an­teed the pay­ments through July. Sen Su­san Collins of Maine, one of the three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors who voted against the GOP health bill on Fri­day, said she’s trou­bled by Trump’s claims that the in­surance pay­ments are a “bailout.” She said Trump’s threat to cut off pay­ments would not change her op­po­si­tion to the GOP health bill and stressed the cost-shar­ing re­duc­tion pay­ments were crit­i­cal to make in­surance more af­ford­able for low-in­come peo­ple.

“The un­cer­tainty about whether that sub­sidy is go­ing to con­tinue from month to month is clearly con­tribut­ing to the desta­bi­liza­tion of the in­surance mar­kets, and that’s one thing that Congress needs to end,” said Collins, who wants law­mak­ers to ap­pro­pri­ate money for the pay­ments. “I cer­tainly hope the ad­min­is­tra­tion does not do any­thing in the mean­time to has­ten that col­lapse,” she added.

Trump pre­vi­ously said the law that he and oth­ers call “Oba­macare” would col­lapse im­me­di­ately when­ever those pay­ments stop. He has in­di­cated a de­sire to halt the sub­si­dies but so far has al­lowed them to con­tinue on a month-to-month ba­sis. Con­way spoke on “Fox News Sun­day,” Mul­vaney ap­peared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and Collins was on CNN as well as NBC’s “Meet the Press.” —AP

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