Health Care

ObamaCare payments emerge as pivotal issue in shutdown talks

Victoria Sarno Jordan

White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney threatened to cut off crucial ObamaCare payments as soon as next month on a call with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Tuesday night, according to an aide familiar with the discussion. 

A White House official disputed that Mulvaney threatened to cut off the payments, but said that the administration has not made up its mind on whether to continue them.

Mulvaney also made clear that the payments would not be included in this week’s funding bill, the official said. 

{mosads}Canceling the payments to insurers, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), would cause chaos in the insurance market. The payments are the subject of ongoing litigation, with a judge ruling them unconstitutional last year because Congress had not appropriated the money.  

“Mulvaney indicated that while the Trump administration had continued the CSR payments, they had not yet decided whether they would make the May payment,” the aide said. “Mulvaney made clear that, absent Congressional action, the judge’s order would stand and the administration would cease making payments.”

Pelosi is pushing for the payments to be funded in the spending bill Congress is negotiating this week.

Mulvaney later countered in a statement that Democrats are just looking for an excuse to hold up talks, and that the administration had made the payments on its own in the past.

“Let me be clear: the only thing standing in the way of a landmark defense and border security bill is a handful of Democrats who are insisting on an 11th hour bailout of Obamacare,” Mulvaney said. “We can get this deal done today. There is no excuse not to.

“This administration has made CSR payments in the past, and the only reason some are raising this now is to hold the government hostage and find an excuse to oppose a bipartisan agreement,” he added. 

However, the White House did not immediately respond when asked whether the White House is committing to continuing the payments on its own. 

Democrats and health insurers are looking for certainty that the payments will continue next year, meaning congressional action to provide a guarantee of funds. If left up to the administration, President Trump could cancel the payments, as he has threatened to do. 

Top congressional Republicans, though, are resisting funding ObamaCare payments in the spending bill, leading to a standoff. 

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday the payments would not be included in the funding bill, pointing to the administration. 

“Obviously, CSRs — we’re not doing that,” Ryan told reporters. “”That is not in an appropriation bill. That’s something separate that the administration does.”

The story was updated at 12:49 p.m. 


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