Dems link ObamaCare payments to shutdown fight

Dems link ObamaCare payments to shutdown fight
© Greg Nash

Congressional Democrats are demanding that key ObamaCare payments be included in the next spending bill, raising the possibility of a government shutdown if they are not.

The calls come a day after President Trump on Wednesday threatened to cancel insurer reimbursements in an effort to force Democrats to negotiate on healthcare reform.

Without the payments, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), many insurers could pull out of ObamaCare exchanges or spike premiums, causing chaos in the health insurance market.

“The President’s comments on stopping the Cost Sharing Reduction payments will increase costs, is a threat to the good health of the American people and a threat to keeping government open,” an aide to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in a written statement.

Democrats say Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan Selling government assets would be a responsible move in infrastructure deal MORE (N.Y.) are in agreement that the payments must be included in the spending bill being negotiated ahead of an April 28 deadline. Democrats want the funds to become mandatory spending, which would provide the certainty insurance companies have requested.

The CSRs are reimbursements for insurers that cover low-income ObamaCare enrollees.

The Democrats' move effectively turns the tables on Trump. They say they won't cave on ObamaCare repeal because of Trump’s threat to cancel the payments and sabotage the law.

“The president’s comments have increased the urgency to get this included in the appropriations discussions, and Sen. Schumer intends to push hard for it,” a Senate Democratic aide said.

Some congressional Republicans have expressed support for appropriating the money, notably House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

But Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump backs down in rare reversal Trump, GOP launch full-court press on compromise immigration measure Meadows gets heated with Ryan on House floor MORE (R-Wis.) has indicated that the administration will keep funding the payments while a GOP lawsuit over the payments continues. House Republicans sued over the reimbursements, calling them unconstitutional because Congress had not appropriated them.

Insurers and Democrats, though, are looking for more certainty than just a temporary continuation. Insurers say they need to know about the payments to plan whether they will participate in ObamaCare marketplaces next year, a decision they have to make within months.