White House freaks out insurance providers with threat to sabotage Obamacare

Donald Trump in front of an American flag

Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding and blame the Democrats.

President Donald Trump may sabotage Obamacare by withholding federal payments required to cover cost-sharing reductions through the Affordable Care Act, which makes healthcare accessible to over 7 million low-income Americans.

If the federal funding that supports the Obamacare marketplace is not guaranteed, insurers will likely either raise their premiums or refuse to participate in the marketplace altogether—a move that will destabilize Obamacare.

Although a federal judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act did not authorize the White House to make payments without congressional appropriation or permission, after a successful legal challenge by House Republicans, the same judge also said that the administration could still make payments to Obamacare while the decision was up for appeal.

However, one week ago, Trump told the Wall Street Journal he was considering a freeze on subsidies in order to strong-arm the Democrats into supporting the American Healthcare Act, which was withdrawn before a congressional vote in March because of limited support. The political motivation behind this would be damaging Obamacare in a way that also pressures Democrats and would force a repeal and replacement, as there would be increasing pressure by the public to fix the problem.

“I don’t want people to get hurt,” he said, fielding the idea. “What I think should happen—and will happen—is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating. … They own Obamacare.”

As a result of that interview, on Tuesday, representatives from some of the country’s biggest health insurance providers visited the White House to seek confirmation that the administration was still committed to covering the cost of deductibles and copays into 2018, but government officials refused to give that assurance.

House Republicans, of course, could resolve the problem by passing an appropriation and authorization for the payment of the cost-sharing reductions at any stage but, so far, have held off while trying to pass American Healthcare Act.

This has made insurers very nervous. The uncertainty alone could result in premiums rising by as much as 15 percent, according to some experts.

Still, the risk of such a political move is high. Despite what the president says, people would most definitely “get hurt,” and Trump would be naive to assume that working Americans would simply blame the Democrats for a system that failed as a result of his administration’s deliberate inaction.

H/T New York

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.