President Donald Trump told advisers in an Oval Office meeting Tuesday that he favored ending crucial Affordable Care Act payments to insurers, Politico reported, a move that would almost guarantee chaos in the individual health insurance market.
A White House official said in a statement that the administration had made a commitment to Congress to make the payments only for the month of May. “No final decisions have been made at this time, and all options are on the table,” the official said.
The payments, which subsidize insurers for keeping out-of-pocket costs down for low income consumers, are the target of a 2014 House GOP lawsuit, originally brought against President Obama’s administration. A federal judge ruled in favor of the House GOP’s arguments last year, but let the subsidies continue while the decision was appealed. The case was paused after Trump’s election, so the new administration and House Republicans could figure out their next move, and next week the parties must update the court on their progress. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a press conference earlier this week that the issue still wasn’t resolved.
It’s been estimated that halting the payments would cause premiums to rise 19 percent, and already some insurers have filed intentions for rate increases in the 2018 plan year, with at least some industry officials acknowledging that the uncertainty is a major factor. More worrisome is the prospect that insurers would withdraw from the marketplaces altogether, as some have already threatened.
Trump has previously claimed, in publicly floating the possibility he would end the payments, that doing so would bring Democrats to the negotiating table as Republicans attempt to repeal Obamacare.
According to the Politico report, many in the Trump administration are skeptical of this argument, fearing it would backfire politically (which polling also suggests). Politico describes Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price of being “leery” of ending the payments, while calling Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney “agnostic” on the issue.