In much the same way, a guy takes his basketball, after he loses, so no one else can play, President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold key ObamaCare payments as a way to force Democrats to the negotiating table on healthcare, according to The Wall Street Journal, since the failure of the GOP health care bill in the House nearly three weeks ago.
The Journal reported that the Executive-In-Tweet made the threat in an interview on Wednesday.
Trump suggested the federal government would hold back key subsidy payments made to health insurers offering insurance to low-income Americans.
“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said. “I haven’t made my viewpoint clear yet. I don’t want people to get hurt. What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
If Trump follows through on what the Journal is reporting, he could use the ensuing chaos in ObamaCare’s insurance markets to try to back Democrats into making a deal on repealing the law.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said in response to the comments that “President Trump is threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him, to achieve a political goal of repeal that would take health care away from millions more.”
“This cynical strategy will fail,” Schumer continued. “Our position remains unchanged: drop repeal, stop undermining our health care system, and we will certainly sit down and talk about ways to improve the Affordable Care Act.”
Trump did not definitively say whether he would seek to cancel the payments, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), or whether Congress should appropriate the money, according to the Journal.
In fact, Trump also acknowledged he might continue the payments so he would not be blamed for chaos in the system. He also cautioned: “That’s part of the reason that I may go the other way.”
“The longer I’m behind this desk and you have ObamaCare, the more I would own it,” he said.
The payments are at the center of an ongoing legal battle between the previous administration and House Republicans, who argue the payments were made improperly without congressional approval.
The Obama administration filed an appeal to a federal judge’s ruling in favor of House Republicans, which Republicans extended after the inauguration. To stop the payments, which the government is still making, the Trump administration would simply have to drop the appeal.
“It wasn’t authorized by Congress,” Trump told the Journal. “I’m going to have to make a decision.”
Trump’s comments come two days after the Department of Health and Human Services told The New York Times the cost-sharing subsidy payments will continue.
A White House spokesman said Wednesday night that no decision has been made regarding the payments.
Health care experts say stopping the payments would severely undermine Obamacare and the insurance markets, and prompt some insurers to flee the system.
“Insurance companies would lose billions of dollars of cost-sharing subsidies,” Robert Laszekwski, a health policy consultant, said in a recent interview. “He could blow up the system right now.”
Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, have called for the payments to continue, at least until Republicans can pass their GOP health care proposal.
“I think it’s an important part for 2017, to keep the commitment and hopefully between now and when plans are active in 2018 you’ll have a different process in place,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, recently told reporters.
Walden wants Congress to appropriate more funding for the payments in a government funding resolution Congress has to pass by the end of the month, though the administration has the authority to continue the payments as the legal battle continues.
“I don’t think you want to destabilize the market until you have something to replace it with,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an interview.
Democrats have said they will work with the White House to improve the Affordable Care Act when Republicans abandon their plans to repeal former President Barack Obama’s law.
Insurers are pushing hard for more certainty as they try to plan whether to participate in ObamaCare markets next year. They say they may have to hike premiums or drop out anyway due to the uncertainty.
Some top congressional Republicans have called for appropriating the money, which could override any decisions made by the Trump administration and keep the payments flowing.