Trump administration asks for time to weigh Obamacare subsidies

Trump administration asks for time to weigh Obamacare subsidies

In 2015, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives sued the Obama administration, arguing that the payments had not been appropriated by Congress and were therefore illegal.

Rates for the 2018 plan year are finalized throughout the fall according to various state and federal deadlines.

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies to reduce out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copayments for consumers with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level - which amounts to $30,015 for a single person ― and the federal government is supposed to pay back insurers for the expense.

The case is now waiting in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In a joint filing submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the administration and Republican lawmakers who had previously challenged the payments asked for a second three-month extension.

-Preserving ACA consumer safeguards including no lifetime caps on benefits, no higher premium for women based on gender, and a requirement that insurers spend a minimum of 80 cents of every premium dollar on medical care.

While the latest delay is a reprieve for Obamacare, it does little to resolve the underlying uncertainty created by the case and by Republican efforts in Congress to repeal and replace large parts of the law.

The Obama administration appealed that decision - and kept the reimbursements flowing to insurers - and the appeal is now being handled by the Trump administration, which has also maintained the payments up to now. But insurers never had a guarantee about the payments continuing in 2017. They are expected to cost $7 billion this year.

Slavitt also said that the uncertainty over the fate of so-called cost-sharing reduction payments will lead some insurers to abandon selling individual health plans altogether.

President Donald Trump reserves the right to unilaterally cut off the payments, made monthly by the Department of Health and Human Services, if he disagrees with a recommendation to do otherwise.

The bill that narrowly passed the House this month would have eventually repealed the payments entirely, but some GOP lawmakers in both chambers have pushed for an explicit appropriation of the payments in the short-term as a way to stabilize the marketplaces.

All four of the insurance companies offering plans on the New Hampshire exchange plan to return in 2018, but we won't know their rates until November. If the administration halted the appeal, it would be up to Congress to decide whether to approve money for the subsidies to continue.

"We need swift action and long-term certainty on this critical program", Cathryn Donaldson, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said in an email.

Essentially, uncertainty for insurance providers as to whether or not the administration will continue paying CSRs ensues with no end in sight.

But continued uncertainty about 2018 could achieve much the same effect. "Instead of hemming and hawing, they ought to step up to the plate and say once and for all that they will make these payments permanently, which help millions of Americans pay less for their health care". Trump has indicated a desire to halt the subsidies.

Trump is using the payments as "political bargaining chips", meaning states and their residents can't rely on the administration to represent their position, they said.

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