House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday that the spending bill that would avoid a government shutdown will not include payments critical to keep Obamacare’s insurance markets viable.
Democrats had hoped to include cost-sharing reduction payments (CSR) in the spending bill to ensure the stability of the individual insurance exchanges of ensure the stability of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“CSRs, we’re not doing that,” Ryan told reporters a press conference with House GOP leadership. “That is not in an appropriation bill, that’s something separate that the administration does.”
While Congress could fund the CSR payments via a new appropriation, the White House currently controls the CSR spending — though their authority to do so is under dispute in the court system.
CSR payments go to insurers to help defray the cost of offering plans to low-income Americans. Without the roughly $US8 billion in annual payments, many health policy experts have said the marketplaces would see a flood of insurer exits and even worse price increases for Americans getting insurance through the marketplaces.
The payments are the subject of a lawsuit between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Department of Health and Human Services that dates back to the administration of President Barack Obama. The House argued the program is illegal since the funds were not appropriated by Congress. A judge ruled in Congress’ favour in 2016, but an appeal from the Obama administration is still pending.
Trump has discussed the possibility of dropping the payments if they are not appropriated by Congress, injecting massive uncertainty into the Obamacare exchanges and insurers’ plans 2018.
Whether or not Democrats demand the CSR payments be included in any spending legislation could decide whether or not the bill passes and a government shutdown is avoided. Forty-two per cent of people surveyed in a Politico/Morning Consult poll said the continuation CSR payments were important enough to prompt a government shutdown.
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