Trump administration: No decision on key ObamaCare payments

Trump administration: No decision on key ObamaCare payments
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The Trump administration said Tuesday that it has not made a decision on funding key ObamaCare payments that could cause chaos if discontinued. 

“The administration is currently deciding its position on this matter,” Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Alleigh Marre wrote in an emailed statement. 

At issue are ObamaCare payments known as “cost-sharing reductions," which reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles to low-income ObamaCare enrollees. House Republicans sued the Obama administration over the payments, arguing they were unconstitutional because Congress never appropriated the money. 

If insurers lose the payments, they warn they will either have to spike premiums or drop out of the market altogether. Democrats fear the Trump administration could cancel the payments as a way to try to make the health law "explode," as President Trump has predicted.  

The uncertainty is making it hard for insurers to plan and decide whether to participate in ObamaCare markets in 2018, a decision that has to be made within a couple of months. Insurers could drop out of markets or raise premiums because of this uncertainty. 

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The administration said last week that it would continue the payments while the House lawsuit continues. But insurers said that statement was not enough, because they need to know whether they will get the payments next year, and the lawsuit could be over well before then. 

Adding to the uncertainty, HHS on Tuesday issued a statement calling a New York Times article about the administration statement from last week “inaccurate” and saying no decision had been made on the payments. 

HHS did not elaborate on its statement Tuesday, which also noted: “We have not been contacted by Democrats to help save ObamaCare, perhaps because they consider ObamaCare to be a losing cause. Democrats need to help solve this failed ObamaCare plan.” 

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurer trade group, said Tuesday that its understanding continues to be that the administration will fund the payments during the lawsuit and that no decision has been made on the future beyond that. AHIP said that stance is not enough, because it does not provide certainty for 2018. 

AHIP is pushing for Congress to pass a permanent appropriation for the money but said it has not gotten a clear sense from lawmakers or the administration on the intended course of action.

“As plans are making their decisions about 2018 they really need to know for certain what happens with [cost-sharing reductions],” said AHIP spokeswoman Kristine Grow.