Insurers say Trump commitment on ObamaCare payments falls short

Insurers say Trump commitment on ObamaCare payments falls short
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Health insurers say a new commitment from the White House to continue paying ObamaCare insurer subsidies is not enough. 

While top congressional Democrats spoke positively of the White House’s commitment on Wednesday to maintain the payments, insurers say the move does not give them the enough long-term certainty.

The trade group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said it still believes Congress should actively appropriate the funds for the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and not leave it up to the administration. 

"Our position has not changed – The American people need Congress to fund CSRs now," said Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for AHIP. 

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The White House dropped a threat to immediately cut off the payments, which reimburse insurers that cover poor ObamaCare enrollees, but it did not provide a long-term guarantee. 

"While we agreed to go ahead and make the CSR payments for now, we haven’t made a final decision about future commitments," a White House official said. 

Insurers say they need to be certain the payments will continue through 2018 in order to make decisions about participating in ObamaCare's marketplaces next year. Those decisions must be made within a few months. 

Even with the White House commitment Wednesday, the administration could move to end the payments at any time in the future.

Top congressional Republicans, though, do not want Congress to fund the payments at all and say the administration should simply continue them temporarily. 

The American Academy of Actuaries has found that premiums would need to increase by around 20 percent to make up for the loss of the payments. Even the uncertainty around the payments could cause spikes. 

More drastically, some insurers could drop out of the ObamaCare market without the payments, limiting consumers' options.