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White House undecided on continuing key ObamaCare payments

White House undecided on continuing key ObamaCare payments
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration has not decided if it will make key ObamaCare payments to insurers after this month.

The payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, reimburse insurers for providing discounted deductibles and copays to low-income individuals. 

If the administration doesn't make the payments, it could cause chaos in the insurance exchanges. 

“We’ve not made any decision. The payments are due I believe the 20th or 21st of every single month. We have not made any decisions at all on May," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at a briefing. 

A spokesman for Mulvaney later clarified his comments, indicating this month's payments would be made and saying no decisions have been made beyond May. 

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Insurers have threatened to raise rates or leave the individual market in 2018 if they don't receive the payments. 

That would destabilize the markets, leave some without insurer options and increase government spending. 

House Republicans sued the White House during the Obama administration over the payments, arguing they were being made without congressional authority.

While GOP leaders and the Trump administration have previously said they will continue the payments while the lawsuit plays out in court, Mulvaney's comments indicate they may drop them at any time.  

The decision puts Republicans in a tough spot. If they don't make the payments, they could be blamed for an imploding ObamaCare marketplace. 

But if they do, they could be criticized for trying to help a law they vowed to repeal. 

President Trump has threatened to withhold the payments in an effort to force Democrats to work with him on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. 

Democrats have been furious over the threats, accusing Trump of toying with people's healthcare. 

"It is well past time for the Trump administration to stop playing bait-and-switch with families' healthcare," Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Murray blasts GOP measure on transgender athletes: 'Have a little bit of heart' Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said in a statement Tuesday. 

"The actions they are threatening to take would singlehandedly spike premiums for people across the country and throw our health care system into chaos — and their threats alone are creating harmful uncertainty. The Trump Administration should drop the political games or expect to be held fully accountable for the damage they are causing.”