Trump’s Message To Democrats: Negotiate Obamacare, Or Payments To Insurers Will Be Cut

A federal court has invalidated the payments, saying the Obama administration spent the money even though Congress specifically stripped the funds from its annual spending bills.

The government is still making the payments pending an appeal of the case, but Mr. Trump hinted last week that he would halt the payments himself, forcing Obamacare into a quick death unless Democrats agree to negotiate over major changes to the Affordable Care Act.

“If Congress doesn’t approve it, or if I don’t approve it, that would mean that Obamacare doesn’t have enough money, so it dies immediately as opposed to over a period of time,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

It’s a risky gambit.

Democrats are resisting changes to Obamacare and are insisting that Congress add cost-sharing money into a must-pass spending bill later this month. Otherwise, they signaled that they would withhold their support for the spending bill, igniting yet another government shutdown showdown.

“Our argument to congressional Republicans is: You won. Your argument in this case is that Congress needed to appropriate these funds. OK, let’s do it,” said an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Trump is searching for leverage to make an Obamacare deal after his first effort, which relied entirely on Republicans, crumbled.

The cost-sharing payments, which totaled about $7 billion last year, are critical to the survival of Obamacare. Without the payments, plans would likely drop out or raise their premiums across the board.

Michael Cannon, director of health care policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said Mr. Trump has a duty to either stop the payments or keep appealing the court’s ruling, which isn’t feasible at this point.

“He needs to announce he is obeying the court order, the cost-sharing reduction payments will stop and that Democrats are preventing Congress from rescuing Obamacare’s growing number of victims,” Mr. Cannon said.

Democrats, though, said it’s Republicans who will feel political pain if they sabotage Obamacare now. They pointed to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation that says 3 in 5 Americans will hold Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans responsible for whatever happens to health care, now that they control the levers of political power in Washington.

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