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Former health chiefs: Stabilizing ObamaCare markets benefits Republicans

Former health chiefs: Stabilizing ObamaCare markets benefits Republicans
© Lauren Schneiderman

Three former Health secretaries from both parties are warning Republicans to avoid impending disaster in the ObamaCare markets and move quickly to stabilize the system, arguing that it would be more advantageous to the party than watching the system collapse.

Former Health and Human Services Secretaries Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusPro-dependency advocates miss the mark in attacking Kansas welfare reform Pence breaks tie to confirm Trump's pick for religious ambassador The House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology MORE, Mike Leavitt and Tommy Thompson told the Associated Press that the Trump administration is wrong to think that watching the markets collapse would be the best political decision after the failure by the Republican-majority Senate to repeal the law.

“Stabilizing the current situation can only — I think — be to their benefit,” said Sebelius, who served under former President Obama and oversaw the rollout of the individual marketplace at healthcare.gov.

“In an environment in which [insurance] companies are enrolling customers, they’ve got a lot of time to actually go back to the drawing board and figure this out. The worst of all worlds for them would be to have the current situation unravel because of decisions by this administration.”

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Leavitt, who served under former President George W. Bush, agreed. He said that Republicans "won the right" to make changes to the law, but he cautioned that it should be done in a "skillful" way.

“They can make changes that signal a new ideological direction without generating a logistical and political mess,” Leavitt said. “They won the right to make changes. However, they should do it in a skillful way.”

Thompson, Bush's other HHS secretary, warned the administration against further destabilizing the market, such as by withholding key payments to insurers under the law that are meant to reduce premiums.

“It would be a mistake to further destabilize the [insurance] market,” Thompson said.

The Trump administration announced this week that it would continue to make the payments for the month of August but has not made a decision on any subsequent months. Trump has frequently threatened to end the payments, saying the healthcare law is "dead" and threatening to let it implode in order to force a deal with Democrats.

"[T]here is no ObamaCare, it’s dead. Plus we’re subsidizing it and we don’t have to subsidize it. You know if I ever stop wanting to pay the subsidies, which I will," Trump said in May. "Anytime I want."