Cutting off a key subsidy program could send Obamacare’s insurance markets into a tailspin.
By Dan Diamond and Josh Dawsey
“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
President Donald Trump wants to use a key Obamacare subsidy program as leverage to draw Democrats to the negotiating table on health care, three administration officials with knowledge of Trump's thinking told MARCA POLITICA.
Trump could deliver an immediate and fatal blow to the Obamacare marketplaces if he scraps the subsidy program, worth an estimated $7 billion this year. These cost-sharing subsidies, which help insurers pay medical bills for low-income customers, have been the subject of a long-running lawsuit that the White House could drop at any time.
Until now, the president had appeared noncommittal, while his top advisers disagreed on whether to continue the payments as they weigh a broader repeal strategy.
This week, though, the self-styled negotiator-in-chief stepped up to put the squeeze on Democrats, resulting in conflicting signals from his administration. On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services suggested in a statement to The New York Times that the administration might continue the payments. On Tuesday, however, HHS condemned the report and said no decision has been made.
Two administration officials said the HHS rebuttal was personally ordered by an incensed Trump, who feared that the Times story hurt his negotiating position. Trump took the unusual step of calling HHS Secretary Tom Price to dictate a blistering statement that challenged the story and swiped at Democrats, one senior administration official said.