President Donald Trump’s abrupt move to cut off federal payments to insurers amounts to “health care arson,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told “Fox News Sunday.”
“He’s really setting the entire health care system on fire because the president is upset that the United States Congress won’t pass a repeal bill that is supported by 17 percent of the American public,” Murphy, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, added.
The money goes to companies for lowering out-of-pocket costs like co-payments and deductibles for low- and middle-income customers. It will cost about $7 billion this year and help more than 6 million people.
Ending the payments would affect insurers because ObamaCare requires them to reduce their poorer customers’ costs. Carriers are likely to recoup the lost money by increasing 2018 premiums for people buying their own health insurance policies.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners estimates that Trump’s move would produce a 12 percent to 15 percent upsurge in premiums, while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has put the figure at 20 percent. That’s on top of premium increases from growing medical costs.
Trump relished his latest blow against ObamaCare -- which he'd pledged to repeal during his presidential campaign, only to see the effort crash in the GOP-run Senate this summer. He’s long derided the subsidies as bailouts to insurers, even though the payments and the cost reductions for consumers are required by law.
A federal judge has found that Congress never properly approved the payments, Fox News previously reported.
The White House said in a statement that the Department of Health and Human Services has determined there is no appropriation for so-called cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers under the ObamaCare law.
“We will discontinue these payments immediately,” acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Medicare administrator Seema Verma said late Thursday.
“Without the subsidies there will be many people who won’t be able to provide insurance and afford it, and the other set of subsidies that go to individuals will actually increase, meaning the deficit goes up, the amount of money we spend overall on the Affordable Care Act goes up because all that happens is the payments that used to be going to insurance companies now get substitute with increased tax credits for individuals to afford the coverage,” Murphy said.
“The fact of the matter is the president is trying to sabotage the American health care system, trying to put a gun to the head of our constituents by taking away their health care or raising their costs in order to force us to repeal a bill the American public doesn’t want us to repeal,” Murphy said about ObamaCare.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.