Trump tweet hints at end­ing Oba­macare in­sur­ance bailouts

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Wash­ing­ton, US - US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened to end key Af­ford­able Care Act (ACA) sub­si­dies to health in­sur­ance com­pa­nies that help make in­sur­ance ac­ces­si­ble to poorer Amer­i­cans, a move that may crit­i­cally desta­bilise health ex­changes if it went ahead.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has pre­vi­ously floated the idea to halt sub­si­dies that help in­sur­ers off­set health-care costs for low-in­come Amer­i­cans, called a cost-shar­ing re­duc­tion, or CSR. In a tweet on Satur­day, Trump hinted at end­ing that pro­gramme.

‘If a new Health­Care Bill is not ap­proved quickly, BAILOUTS for In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies and BAILOUTS for Mem­bers of Congress will end very soon!’ the Pres­i­dent said in a tweet on Satur­day.

It was un­clear if Trump’s mes­sage means he also plans to di­rectly tar­get sub­si­dies that are avail­able to health in­sur­ance poli­cies for some Con­gres­sional staff mem­bers. Thou­sands of mem­bers of Congress and staff are en­rolled in plans on the Wash­ing­ton, DC, in­sur­ance ex­change. The White House de­clined to com­ment fur­ther on Trump’s tweet.

A months-long ef­fort by Se­nate Re­pub­li­cans to pass health­care leg­is­la­tion col­lapsed early on Fri­day af­ter Repub­li­can John McCain of Ari­zona joined two of his col­leagues to block a stripped-down Oba­macare re­peal bill. McCain’s ‘no’ vote came af­ter weeks of brinkman­ship and af­ter his dra­matic re­turn from can­cer treat­ment to cast the 50th vote to start de­bate on the bill ear­lier in the week. The ‘skinny’ re­peal bill was de­feated 49-51, fall­ing just short of the 50 votes needed to ad­vance it. Re­pub­li­cans Su­san Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also voted against it.

End­ing the CSR sub­si­dies, paid monthly to in­sur­ers, is one way that Trump could has­ten Oba­macare’s demise with­out leg­is­la­tion, by prompt­ing more com­pa­nies to raise pre­mi­ums in the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket or stop of­fer­ing cov­er­age. The ad­min­is­tra­tion last made a pay­ment about a week ago for the pre­vi­ous 30 days, but hasn’t made a longterm com­mit­ment.

Re­spond­ing to Trump’s ear­lier tweet on Satur­day, An­drew Slavitt, act­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said the im­pact of cut­ting off sub­sidy pay­ments ‘will be felt by the mid­dle class who will pay more to sub­sidise low in­come’.

The next pay­ments are due Au­gust 21. On Fri­day, health-care an­a­lyst Spencer Perl­man at Veda Part­ners LLC said in a re­search note that there’s a 30 per cent chance Trump will end CSR pay­ments, which may ‘im­me­di­ately desta­bilise the ex­changes, per­haps fa­tally’.

Amer­ica’s Health In­sur­ance Plans, a lob­by­ing group for the in­dus­try, has es­ti­mated that pre­mi­ums would rise by about 20 per cent if the CSR pay­ments aren’t made. Many in­sur­ers have al­ready dropped out of Oba­macare mar­kets in the face of mount­ing losses, and blamed the un­cer­tainty over the fu­ture of the cost-shar­ing sub­si­dies and the in­di­vid­ual man­date as one of the rea­sons be­hind this year’s premium in­creases.

Mo­ments af­ter the Se­nate voted down the Repub­li­can bill on Fri­day morn­ing, Mc­Connell called on Democrats to of­fer their ideas for mov­ing for­ward with health care. But he warned: “Bail­ing out in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, with no thought of any kind of re­form, is not some­thing I want to be a part of.”

A sur­vey in April by the non­par­ti­san Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion showed that 61 per cent Amer­i­cans be­lieve Trump and Re­pub­li­cans are re­spon­si­ble for fu­ture prob­lems with the ACA, while 31 per cent said pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Democrats would be at fault.

(AFP)

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump

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