(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump might withhold Affordable Care Act cost-sharing reduction payments, or Obamacare payments that help poor people afford medical services, to force Democrats to negotiate changes to the health law, he told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.
Those payments to lower-income people, called cost-sharing-reduction subsidies, have been at the center of an almost three-year legal battle between Republicans and Democrats. The payments are used to help poorer people who use ACA public exchange plans afford deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for the medical services covered by the plans. Without the subsidies, they might not be able to afford to get care. Trump’s administration has threatened to stop making the payments.
— (Related on ThinkAdvisor: GOP may use subsidy case to smother ACA exchange system)
“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Trump told the Journal published Wednesday. “What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
The top Senate Democrat swiftly criticized Trump for his remarks, saying that the party’s strategy remains unchanged.
“President Trump is threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him, to achieve a political goal of repeal that would take health care away from millions more,” Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “This cynical strategy will fail.”
The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are trying to find a way forward with their efforts to change the ACA, after a GOP-crafted bill in the House, the American Health Care Act bill, was pulled from a floor vote last month, lacking support. Afterward, Trump threatened to let the ACA exchange system collapse on his watch, as a way to force Democrats to come to him with offers to make changes to the law.
‘Health Care First’
Despite the failure of the House GOP effort, and no clear signs of Republican consensus on how to revive it, Trump said in a separate interview with Fox Business that his efforts on health care are “doing very well” and that he still wants a bill passed before tackling tax reform.
“We have to do health care first to pick up additional money so that we get great tax reform. So we’re going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first,” Trump said in the Fox Business interview on Tuesday.
— (Related on ThinkAdvisor: State Regulators Meet as Individual Health Gasps for Life)
Trump wouldn’t put a deadline on when a health care bill would be passed, saying it would happen “at some point.” He added that if it didn’t happen “fast enough” he would eventually move on to tax reform.
Companies and investors have been eagerly awaiting an overhaul to the U.S. tax system that the administration has promised will lower corporate taxes and make it easier to bring money back from overseas. But with health reform standing in the way, analysts now think it won’t be until the end of the year, at the earliest, when a tax plan could take shape.
“Markets, that have been expecting tax reform movement and action earlier in the year, based in part on administration and congressional statements, may be disappointed on this news and react accordingly,” said Terry Haines, an analyst with Evercore ISI.