President Trump Threatens to End Insurance Payments If No Health-Care Bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
President Donald Trump. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

President Donald Trump threatened to end government payments to health insurers if Congress does not pass a health-care bill.

In a Twitter message on Saturday, Trump said: “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

Trump’s comment came after Senate Republicans failed to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health-care bill, on Friday.

The first part of Trump’s tweet appeared to be referring to the approximately $8 billion in cost-sharing reduction subsidies paid by the federal government to insurers to lower the price of health coverage for low-income individuals.

The second part of the tweet appeared to be a threat to end the employer contribution for members of Congress and their staffs who were moved from the normal federal employee health-care benefits program onto the Obamacare insurance exchanges as part of the 2010 health-care law.

The Obama administration had ruled that these contributions could continue, flowing through the District of Columbia insurance exchange.

Many insurers have been waiting for an answer from Trump or lawmakers on whether they will continue to fund the annual government subsidies. Without assurances, many insurers plan to raise rates an additional 20 percent by an Aug. 16 deadline for premium prices.

With Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare in disarray, hundreds of counties are at risk of losing access to private health coverage in 2018 as insurers consider pulling out of those markets.

In response, Trump on Friday again suggested that his administration would let the Obamacare program “implode.” He has weakened enforcement of the law’s requirement for individuals to buy insurance, threatened to cut off funding and sought to change plan benefits through regulations.