Trump To Cut Off Billions In Key Obamacare Payments To Insurers

President Donald Trump plans to halt payments to health insurance companies serving the poorest customers on the Obamacare exchanges, the White House announced Thursday.

Trump has threatened to withhold these funds, valued at $7 billion this year, since shortly after his election victory last November. The threats alone have roiled the health insurance market, and if he follows through, it promises to be significantly disruptive. Trump will make an announcement Friday, according to Politico, which first reported the news.

In Trump’s mind, dealing damage to the Obamacare market is a means to achieve leverage he believes will force congressional Democrats to cooperate with replacing the Affordable Care Act, the law President Barack Obama signed in 2010 that has brought the number of uninsured Americans to a historic low.

Trump has been undermining the law and its programs since he took office in January, and he has ramped up his efforts in recent weeks in the aftermath of his failure to get the Affordable Care Act repealed by Congress. Earlier Thursday, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to change regulations to allow insurers to sell policies that exclude people with pre-existing conditions and have skimpier benefits than insurance governed by the Affordable Care Act.

The mere possibility that Trump would refuse to pay money owed to health insurance companies created additional instability in market. Insurers are raising premiums for next year even more than they would have as they try to protect themselves against financial losses if the federal government reneges on its obligations.

The open-enrollment period on health insurance exchanges, such as HealthCare.gov and Covered California, begins Nov. 1, less than three weeks from now.

The payments Trump plans to end are related to so-called cost-sharing reductions offered to insurance exchange enrollees who earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $30,150 for a…

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