Republicans seek extension for Obamacare subsidies

Cheryl Sanders
May 24, 2017

The hearing was part of a lawsuit filed by House Republicans claiming Congress hadn't authorized payment of the subsidies to insurers to help consumers defray their out-of-pocket insurance costs.

Polls suggest that the majority of Americans now hold Republicans responsible for the fate of the nation's healthcare markets, potentially imperiling GOP lawmakers who are up for reelection next year. It seems to us that Democrats in Congress will want to pass legislation that their core supporters want and which forces Republican members of Congress to take tough and unpopular votes with their base voters.

"It is the single most destabilizing factor in the individual market, and millions of Americans could soon feel the impact of fewer choices, higher costs and reduced access to care".

I can't help but question whether Democrats really think people are buying the argument that Republicans don't just want to take away your health care, but want you dead, too. Credit Suisse analyst Scott Fidel said that insurers such as Centene Corp and Molina Healthcare Inc that focus on the low-income families that qualify for these subsidies have the most at risk.

Specifically, according to the CBO, 14 million of those 24 million people who will lose coverage under the Republican bill would lose their health insurance because of cuts to Medicaid. AHIP urged Congress to promise that the cost-sharing payments will continue through next year.

But the health care bill simply can not amount to nothing on the one hand and be a plague on the population on the other.

The warnings have been echoed by leading hospitals and physicians, who increasingly worry about the erosion of insurance coverage. As long as the Republicans stay in control, President Trump will not be impeached or investigated. But auto insurance is a ideal example of mandating people to buy insurance coverage for their own good, and the good of everyone else on the road, too.

Andy Slavitt, who until January oversaw Obamacare for the federal government, told CNBC that President Donald Trump has guaranteed higher insurance prices in 2018 by his indecision on what will happen to the $7 billion in subsidies insurers have counted on from the government.

Monday had been a filing deadline for the Trump administration to either continue to defend the payments or concede to the House.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, criticized the threats to stop the payments.

Lower-income Americans, by contrast, likely would be more insulated from the premium hikes because they get other assistance through Obamacare.

—Continued protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and sustained federal funding to offset the cost of care for the sickest patients. Last month, the ousted Molina Health (MOH) CEO, Dr. J. Mario Molina, threatened to completely pull out of the exchanges if the government did not continue funding cost-sharing reductions.

Whether Senate Republicans will be able to come up with a legislative package that would do this remains unclear, however.

But leadership hasn't indicated a desire to move negotiations out into the open, and it's not so hard to imagine how, eventually, they could work out a deal that would get them close to the 50 votes they need ― while still keeping the guts of the House plan and its dramatic effects on insurance coverage.

"We've discussed quite a bit the possibility of a two-step process", said Sen. "There are negotiations going on over the whole health care fix and I'll leave that to those that are involved". Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "Unfortunately, by kicking the can down the road once again, the administration is continuing to sow uncertainty in the markets that will hurt millions of Americans".

The Trump administration is locked in a lawsuit - that originated during the Obama administration - with House Republicans who had sued because they argued the payments are illegal because Congress had not appropriated the funds.

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