House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday downplayed the idea that Democrats will force a government shutdown/showdown over President Trump’s conclusion that he can no longer legally make critical Obamacare “cost-sharing” payments and will end them.
Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said her party is “not about closing down government” and will pressure Republicans, who control Congress, to step up and support bipartisan efforts to stabilize Obamacare’s markets, since the GOP has been unable to produce a replacement for the nearly 20 million Americans who buy insurance on their own.
Negotiations in the Senate include funding for now-canceled “cost-sharing” payments that reimburse insurers for picking up low-income customers’ out-of-pocket costs.
“It’s a negotiation. It’s not a price you demand,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”
The contested Obamacare payments had been specifically denied by Congress, but President Barack Obama had made them anyway, drawing a rebuke from a court that said he was overstepping his powers.
The case has raged for months, and both the Obama and Trump administrations had continued making payments — until now.
Without the payments, insurers have said they would increase premiums, which would further upend the already shaky economic underpinning of the Affordable Care Act.
“What’s he’s doing is hurting the American people,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Some states told insurers to submit two sets of rates to hedge against the possibility that Mr. Trump might cancel the payments. Others did not, forcing a scramble to figure out whether rates can be revised or if open enrollment can be delayed.
Democrats could use the payments as a bargaining chip ahead of a government-funding deadline in December since GOP leaders typically need their votes to overcome objections from conservatives over runaway federal spending.
Yet the prospect of a deal to defuse the situation seem dim.
Speaking to Politico, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney suggested that Mr. Trump would be open to a bipartisan stabilization bill but only if he got something in return, such as funding for his border wall.
“He wants to negotiate the health care bill by repealing the Affordable Care Act and building a wall? No,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
The Obamacare payments cost about $7 billion a year, according to the latest accounting.
The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say the decision to withdraw the money will actually cost taxpayers more over time, since the federal government doles out subsidies that rise with premiums tied to “benchmark” plans in the program’s exchanges.
Rates are estimated to rise up to 20 percent without the cost-sharing payments, according to analysts.
Mrs. Pelosi characterized Mr. Trump’s move as his latest attempt to go “rogue” in unwinding his predecessor’s legacy, despite criticism from members of his own party. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, was particularly vocal in his criticism of Mr. Trump’s decision to yank the cost-sharing money.
“So many things that are not based on evidence — and that’s problematic,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “Either [Mr. Trump] doesn’t know or he doesn’t care.”
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