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Trump ‘disrupts’ access to affordable health care

HOPE YEN | 10/23/2017, 7:44 a.m.
A key moderate Republican urged President Donald Trump on Sunday to back a bipartisan Senate effort to shield consumers from ...
President Donald Trump speaks to the 2017 Value Voters Summit, Oct. 13, in Washington. Trump’s decision to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act that has benefited an estimated 6 million Americans helps fulfill a campaign promise, but it also risks harming some of the very people who helped him win the presidency. Nearly 70 percent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON (AP) – A key moderate Republican urged President Donald Trump on Sunday to back a bipartisan Senate effort to shield consumers from rising premiums after his abrupt decision to halt federal payments to insurers. Sen. Susan Collins called the move “disruptive” and an immediate threat to access to the Affordable Health Care Act.

“What the president is doing is affecting people’s access and the cost of health care right now,” said Collins of Maine, who has cast pivotal votes on health care in the narrowly divided Senate. “This is not a bailout of the insurers. What this money is used for is to help low-income people afford their deductibles and their co-pays. Congress needs to step in and I hope that the president will take a look at what we’re doing.”

Her comments reflected an increasing focus Sunday on the bipartisan Senate effort led by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to at least temporarily reinstate the payments to avoid immediate turmoil in the insurance market, even as Trump signaled he wouldn’t back a deal without getting something he wants in return.

The payments will be stopped beginning this week, with sign-up season for subsidized private insurance set to start Nov. 1.

“The president is not going to continue to throw good money after bad, give $7 billion to insurance companies unless something changes about Obamacare that would justify it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who golfed with Trump Saturday at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.

“It’s got to be a good deal,” Graham said.

In his decision last week, Trump derided the $7 billion in subsidies as bailouts to insurers and suggested he was trying to get Democrats to negotiate and agree to a broader effort to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law, a bid that repeatedly crashed in the GOP-run Senate this summer.

The payments seek to lower out-of-pocket costs for insurers, which are required under Obama’s law to reduce poorer people’s expenses – about 6 million people. To recoup the lost money, carriers are likely to raise 2018 premiums for people buying their own health insurance policies.

“President Trump is failing the American people when he chooses not to exercise proper judgment and action when reviewing what is truly at stake for those who will lose their health care coverage due to his proposed policies,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. “By signing an executive order the president is creating an unleveled playing field for certain insurance companies allowing ‘short-term’ plans to play by different rules.”

Alexander and Murray have been seeking a deal that the Tennessee Republican has said would reinstate the payments for two years. In exchange, Alexander said, Republicans want “meaningful flexibility for states” to offer lower-cost insurance policies with less coverage than Obama’s law mandates.

Still, congressional Republicans are divided over that effort. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has suggested that Trump may oppose any agreement unless he gets something he wants – such as a repeal of the ACA or funding of Trump’s promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.