(Bloomberg) — Several business and health groups are saying a $1.1 trillion bill to keep the U.S. government from shutting down must include payments to health insurers under the Affordable Care Act, creating another hurdle for Republicans to overcome as they try to pass the measure.
On Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and other groups issued a statement saying that the spending bill has to include the ACA’s cost-sharing-reduction program payments. The payments are used to help poor people afford health coverage. Health insurers say losing access to the subsidies would force them to pull out of the ACA public exchange system or sharply raise rates.
“Funding this critical financial assistance for at least two years is the only way to protect these consumers,” the lobbying groups said in the statement. Their members represent some of Washington’s biggest spenders on lobbying and political contributions. “Clarity and commitment to this funding is needed to eliminate confusion and anxiety for consumers, and to allow health plans to make timely and appropriate decisions about market participation in 2018.”
The demand threatens to upend progress on the spending bill, after President Donald Trump’s administration seemed to agree to keep making the insurer payments without an act of Congress. Trump had previously threatened to hold the payments hostage unless he got funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Yet the White House didn’t promise to fund the payments for a certain amount of time. The administration told insurers it will commit only to making the payments through the end of next month, said Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, in an email.