Top House Republicans favor funding key ObamaCare payments

Top House Republicans favor funding key ObamaCare payments
© Greg Nash

Key House Republicans on healthcare say they want to find a way to fund ObamaCare payments that they previously sued the Obama administration over. 

The payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, reimburse insurers for providing discounted deductibles for low-income ObamaCare enrollees. If the payments were canceled, insurers warn they could pull out of the market because of the hole left in their budgets, causing chaos. 

GOP lawmakers previously filed suit against the Obama White House over the payments, arguing they were being made unconstitutionally, without a congressional appropriation. 

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Now, after last week's failure of the House GOP's ObamaCare replacement bill, top Republicans say they realize they need to fund the payments. Providing that funding would go a long way to stabilizing the market and removing a major source of insurer anxiety, though other problems would of course remain.  

Providing a congressional appropriation for the funds could be a way around the legal argument. 

“[That is] a $7 billion appropriation we have to figure out how to fund or the plans likely could get canceled,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Tuesday.

While it remains to be seen if conservatives will object to continuing payments under ObamaCare, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the Appropriations health subcommittee, likewise indicated Monday night that he thinks the cost-sharing reductions should continue.

"You're going to have instability in the market otherwise," Cole said. But he added that no decisions have been made and discussions are going on above his level. 

He said the spending would either have to come out of mandatory funds or the budget allocation for healthcare would have to be increased.