Hours after President Donald Trump unveiled a series of executive actions that could force changes in the Obama health law, the White House announced late Thursday night that it would end the practice of making government “cost-sharing reduction” payments to health insurance companies, which help pay the insurance costs of low income Americans who get health coverage through the Obamacare exchanges.
“Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,” the White House said in a statement, pressing for broader action on health care by the House and Senate.
“Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people,” the White House Press Secretary said, labeling the subsidy payments, a “bailout.”
As for the President, he woke up early on Friday, and declared that this action was the start of repairs on a health care system that he says is a “broken mess.”
The decision to end the CSR payments – which had been threatened by the Trump White House for months – was quickly condemned by members of both parties in Congress.
“This decision will spike health care costs that are already way too high,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who labeled the move by the President, “deliberate sabotage.”
“President Trump has apparently decided to punish the American people for his inability to improve our health care system,” said the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, in a joint statement.
“Cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
The money for the CSR payments had been a thorny political – and legal – matter for several years, because the Congress never voted to spend that money; instead the Obama Administration simply made the payments to insurance companies.
Critics of the idea say it will do two things – result in higher insurance premiums, and actually cost the federal government more in subsidy payments.
But others cheered the President’s move, and said this should force a re-opening of the health care overhaul debate in the House and Senate.
“Under our Constitution, the power of the purse belongs to Congress, not the executive branch,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“President Trump made the right call in deeming these payments unlawful,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House.
“Congress must fulfill the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with high-quality, patient-centered health care,” Walker added.
It’s not clear what the response will be in Congress, though bipartisan talks have been underway in the Senate in recent weeks – which include a plan to fund the CSR payments that were ended by the Trump Administration.