posted at 1:01 pm on May 22, 2017 by John Sexton
Yesterday Allahpundit noted a report saying that President Trump was once again thinking about cutting off Obamacare’s cost-sharing payments. Today, Politico reports Trump is planning to kick the can down the road:
The Trump administration Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August…
While another delay would stop short of imploding the markets, it still undermines the exchanges, by continuing uncertainty as insurers decide where to offer coverage and how to price it.
Politically, this has become a very tough issue for the President. Insurers are now deciding whether or not they will stick with Obamacare in 2018. If Trump cuts the payments now he could cause Obamacare to collapse but there’s little doubt he would be blamed for it. He could also promise to fund the payments indefinitely, which would create stability in the markets and allow insurers to keep their rate requests somewhat lower. That way he doesn’t get blamed if it collapses, but on the other hand, he’d literally be supporting the law he promised to repeal.
So Trump is splitting the difference. He’s not cutting the payments immediately, but he’s also not promising to pay them indefinitely. The markets will limp along as rates go up to account for the uncertainty, but they won’t collapse all at once.
Meanwhile, Democrats are now interested in investigating whether or not the Trump administration linked the continuation of the cost-sharing payments to support for the GOP’s replacement plan. From the LA Times:
At the April meeting, according to multiple industry officials interviewed by The Times, [CMS Administrator Seema] Verma linked the aid to the House repeal legislation, telling insurers the aid wouldn’t be paid until the House bill passed, while also asking health insurers to endorse the bill.
The suggestion that the payments were connected to the industry’s support for the Republican bill stunned industry officials.
“It made no sense,” one told The Times.
Jane Norris, a spokeswoman for the health agency, said The Times’ account was “completely false.”
Democrats can try to play hardball on this issue, but the White House really can stop the payments at any time by simply dropping its objection to the lawsuit. I guess the real question is whether Democrats are still trying to keep Obamacare alive or have decided it’s a lost cause. If it’s the latter then all that’s left for them to do is find a way to blame the failure on someone else.