Dems demand answers on report that admin tried to trade ObamaCare payments

Dems demand answers on report that admin tried to trade ObamaCare payments
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Top Democrats are demanding answers from the Trump administration about whether a top healthcare official offered insurance companies a quid pro quo to get their support for the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma sought political support from insurance companies for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by offering a deal to continue funding congressionally mandated cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the report is false.

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In a letter dated Sunday, ranking Democrats on four congressional committees asked for an explanation about whether Verma or any other official at HHS offered a deal in exchange for insurer support of the AHCA. House Republicans narrowly passed the bill earlier this month, but almost the entire healthcare industry has said they're opposed to it.

The letter was signed by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (Ore.), the ranking members of the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees respectively, as well as Reps. Richard Neal (Mass.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committee ranking members, respectively. 

The lawmakers asked for notes from recent meetings as well as the names of any officials at HHS who made an offer of exchanging CSRs for support of the House legislation. 

"Your reported actions suggest you are using the operation of the American healthcare system as a tool to gain leverage in political negotiations," the lawmakers wrote. 

"It is wholly inappropriate for you to use federally appropriated money ... as a bargaining chip to garner political support for unpopular legislation."

Insurers say they rely on the CSR payments and will be forced to massively hike premiums or exit the ObamaCare exchanges if the payments aren't made. The Trump administration has only guaranteed the CSRs will be paid through May. The president has repeatedly threatened to withhold the payments and let the insurance markets collapse.