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.

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“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 SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger 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 RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids 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.