President Trump suggested to the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that he would withhold from insurers Obamacare subsidy payments that are the target of a House GOP lawsuit in order to force Democrats into negotiations over repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move that could bring chaos to the individual health insurance market.
In the same interview Trump said he believed Democrats still “own” the Affordable Care Act, but acknowledged that the longer he was in office the more likely it was he would be blamed for problems with the law.
“That’s part of the reason that I may go the other way” on the insurance subsidies, Trump told the Journal. “The longer I’m behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it.”
The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are under increasing pressure to continue the subsidies, known as cost sharing reduction payments, at least through 2018 as insurers prepare to submit their plans for next year. The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, have signaled that the payments will continue through the next stage of the legal case, which has been delayed until May.
House Republicans in 2014 sued the Obama administration over the payments, claiming they were illegal because they were not explicitly appropriated by Congress, and won a favorable ruling from a federal judge last May who then halted her decision to allow the Justice Department to appeal it.
Trump’s threats to end the payments come as the Obamacare repeal effort in Congress has faltered. He also told the Wall Street Journal that he will not release the White House plan for tax reform—the next item on the GOP’s agenda and where congressional Republican leaders have shifted their attention—until an Obamacare repeal bill is passed.
Trump said he believed that withholding the payments for insurers would bring Democrats to the table on negotiations.
“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Mr. Trump said. “What I think should happen—and will happen—is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
Republican have been trying to pass Obamacare repeal through the complicated reconciliation process, which puts strict procedural rules on the legislation but avoids a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. The process allows Republicans to pass repeal without Democratic help but greatly constrains what they put in their ACA replacement.
“[Senate Minority Leader] Schumer should be calling me up and begging me to help him save Obamacare,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “He should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare, along with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi.”