Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments

Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments

Top congressional Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to reverse its decision to suspend key ObamaCare payments to insurers, warning the suspension will cause premiums to rise.

“The Administration's decision to suspend these collections and payments, which are required under federal law, appears to be yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to sabotage the nation's health care system for partisan gain,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We ask that you take immediate action to reverse this destructive decision that will further destabilize the individual and small group markets that millions of Americans rely on for health insurance,” they added.

Earlier this month, the administration made the surprise announcement that it is suspending $10.4 billion in payments to health insurers, through a program called risk adjustment.

Insurers immediately warned that the decision would lead to increased premiums for 2019 and would cause further uncertainty.

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Democrats are using the decision as another point in their argument that Republicans are sabotaging the health law and driving up people’s costs, a key midterm election argument.

The letter is signed by the top Democrats on Congress’s health care committees: Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (N.J.), Richard NealRichard Edmund NealKey House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week Coalition of conservative groups to air ads against bipartisan proposal to end 'surprise' medical bills House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (Mass.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHoyer: Democratic chairmen trying to bridge divide on surprise medical bills To support today's students, Congress must strengthen oversight of colleges Democratic lawmaker tears into DeVos: You're 'out to destroy public education' MORE (Va.), and Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin MORE (Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — UN calls for probe into alleged Saudi hack of Bezos | Experts see effort to 'silence' Washington Post | Bezos tweets tribute to Khashoggi Bezos tweets tribute to Khashoggi in wake of reports of Saudi phone hacking MORE (Ore.).  

The Trump administration cited as its reason for stopping the payments a court ruling from a federal judge in New Mexico finding that the administration had not fully justified its formula for dispensing the funds.

But legal experts and insurers said the administration did not need to go so far as to suspend all payments in response to the ruling. It could have instead simply provided a more detailed explanation of its formula to the court.

Democrats in their letter urged the administration to take that response, and also asked for details on the decision, such as which officials were responsible.

No taxpayer money is involved in the program. Instead money is collected from some insurers (those with healthier patients overall) and redistributed to insurers with sicker and more costly patients to help cover their costs.