WASHINGTON – President Trump will decide “this week” whether to cut off payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford healthcare but won’t allow ObamaCare to collapse because “it hurts people,” White House officials said Sunday.
“He’s going to make that decision this week, and that’s a decision that only he can make,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump has long threatened to end the payments, which he has dubbed a “bailout,” to pressure lawmakers to finally pass an Obamacare repeal and replacement plan. The payments are worth roughly $8 billion a year.
“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for members of Congress will end very soon!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
Withholding the payments would destabilize the insurance market, adversely affect low-income Americans and hasten Obamacare’s collapse, experts say.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price wouldn’t comment Sunday specifically on the cost-sharing reduction payments, but said the president won’t let the market collapse.
”No,” Trump won’t let the insurance market implode because “it hurts people,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”
Price argued the system is already failing without any action by the president and Trump’s comment “punctuates the concern that he has about getting this moved in the right direction.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) blasted Trump’s threats to let Obamacare implode.
“I really think it’s incomprehensible that we have a president of the United States that wants to sabotage healthcare in America [and] make life more difficult for millions of people of who are struggling now to get the health insurance they need and to pay for that health insurance, ” Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who helped sink ObamaCare’s repeal last week as one of three GOP “no” votes, said canceling the payments would be a mistake because low-income Americans would be “devastated.”
“It really would be detrimental to some of the most vulnerable citizens if those payments were cut off,” Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They are paid to the insurance companies but the people that they benefit are people who make between 100 percent and 250 percent of the poverty rate. So we are talking about low-income Americans who would be devastated if those payments were cut off.”
Trump is also threatening to end the federal government assistance to members of congress to subsidize their healthcare premium costs on the Obamacare exchanges.
An Office of Personnel Management ruling allowed the federal government to contribute to each member’s plan - roughly 75 percent of the premium costs – because it’s employer provided insurance. Conway dubbed it a “sweet deal” that prevents lawmakers from understanding the pain of Obamacare victims.
Trump also has the power to further destabilize the insurance market by failing to enforce the individual mandate that requires most Americans to have health insurance. By no longer imposing a tax penalty for those without insurance, younger, healthier people would likely opt out of insurance and drive up overall insurance market costs.
Price confirmed that not enforcing the individual mandate is still an option.
“All things are on the table to try to help patients,” Price said.