GOP: Trump must keep Oba­macare pay­ments

Fear ’18 fall­out if ended

The Washington Times Daily - - POL­I­TICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans are pres­sur­ing Pres­i­dent Trump to guar­an­tee crit­i­cal Oba­macare pay­ments for at least the next year, fear­ing the GOP will oth­er­wise be blamed for kneecap­ping the health law as they pre­pare to face vot­ers in 2018.

But the pres­sure is un­der­cut­ting Mr. Trump’s ne­go­ti­at­ing stance. He’d hoped to dan­gle the pay­ments as a car­rot to en­tice Democrats to ne­go­ti­ate on big­ger Oba­macare changes.

Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can, said the GOP’s Oba­macare re­peal ef­forts likely wouldn’t phase in un­til 2020 any­way, mean­ing the ba­sics of the Af­ford­able Care Act will gov­ern op­er­a­tions for the next few years.

He asked Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Thomas Price on Thurs­day to com­mit to mak­ing the “cost-shar­ing re­duc­tions” for in­sur­ers who pick up low-in­come cus­tomers’ costs through 2018.

“And we should prob­a­bly go ahead and do it through 2019,” he told Mr. Price at a bud­get hear­ing.

House Ways and Means Chair­man Kevin Brady, Texas Repub­li­can, re­cently made a sim­i­lar re­quest of Mr. Price.

Mr. Trump has re­fused to say whether he will con­tinue to pay the money, say­ing it gives him lever­age over Democrats who’ve re­sisted his plan to re­place Oba­macare.

But the uncer­tainty is al­ready af­fect­ing some in­sur­ers, who blamed mas­sive pre­mium hikes next year on not know­ing how much they can ex­pect back from the fed­eral govern­ment in cost-shar­ing pay­ments.

Those push­ing for the money to keep flow­ing say it’s just for now.

“I be­lieve Repub­li­cans will need to do some things, tem­po­rar­ily, that we don’t want to do in the long term,” Mr. Alexan­der said.

Mr. Price ducked Mr. Alexan­der’s call, say­ing he can’t com­ment be­cause of an on­go­ing court case. He said, how­ever, that Mr. Trump’s fis­cal 2018 bud­get as­sumed the pay­ments would be made.

In that court case, a fed­eral judge ruled that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama broke the law by dol­ing out the pay­ments de­spite Con­gress re­fus­ing to ap­pro­pri­ate the money.

Mr. Trump could stop mak­ing the pay­ments at any time, but he’s let­ting the money flow for now. Still, he’s keep­ing in­sur­ers guess­ing about the fu­ture, even as they face crit­i­cal dead­lines for de­cid­ing whether to of­fer plans un­der Oba­macare next year.

In­sur­ers are re­quired to cover cus­tomers’ costs whether they’re re­im­bursed or not, fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the eco­nomics of Oba­macare.

A se­ries of in­sur­ers has de­cided to pull out of Mid­west mar­kets, po­ten­tially leav­ing dozens of coun­ties in Ohio, Mis­souri and Iowa with only one op­tion — or, in some cases, none at all — on Oba­macare ex­changes.

Mr. Alexan­der said Oba­macare’s frag­ile eco­nomics are the key cul­prit.

Democrats, though, said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is sab­o­tag­ing the law.

“You’re go­ing to be held ac­count­able,” said Sen. Patty Mur­ray, Wash­ing­ton Demo­crat.

Ms. Mur­ray and Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, have asked the HHS in­spec­tor gen­eral to probe whether Mr. Trump’s wa­ver­ing com­mit­ments to Oba­macare are to blame for the health mar­ket trou­bles.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.