A key moderate Republican is urging President Donald Trump to support a bipartisan Senate effort to reinstate insurer payments, calling his move to halt the subsidies an immediate threat to millions of Americans who could now face rising premiums and lost health care coverage.
“What the president is doing is affecting people’s access and the cost of health care right now,” said Sen. Susan 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,” she added.
Her comments Sunday came amid rising attention on the bipartisan bid led by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to at least temporarily reinstate the payments.
Congressional Republicans are divided over the effort. And White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has suggested that Trump may oppose the agreement unless he gets something in return — such as a repeal of former President Barack Obama’s health care law or funding of Trump’s promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The insurer 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 indicated he was trying to pressure Democrats into negotiating an Obamacare repeal, a bid that repeatedly crashed in the GOP-run Senate this summer.
The subsidies are designed 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.
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