Trump aims at insurers in battle over healthcare subsidies

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WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday took aim at the nation’s health insurers in an escalating threat to cut the healthcare subsidy payments that make Obamacare plans affordable, after repeatedly urging Republican senators to continue working to undo his Democratic predecessor’s healthcare law.

“If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?” Trump, a Republican, wrote on Twitter.

Trump, frustrated that he and Republicans have not been able to keep campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, has threatened to let it implode. So far, the administration has continued to make the monthly subsidy payments, but withholding them would be one way to make good on Trump’s threat.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said on Monday that senators were too divided to keep working on healthcare overhaul legislation, and that he and other senior Republicans would take that message to the White House.

“There’s just too much animosity and we’re too divided on healthcare,” Hatch said in an interview. He said lawmakers could return to a healthcare overhaul later but for now should pivot to tax reform.

But some senators were not ready to drop healthcare. Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, will meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Monday to discuss a proposal Cassidy and others have made to send federal healthcare funds to the states in grants, Cassidy’s spokesman John Cummins said in an email.

Hatch also said he thought Congress would have to approve new funds for the government’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurers that Trump had been threatening to end. These subsidies lower the price of health coverage for the poor under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

A bipartisan group of 43 House lawmakers on Monday called for Congress to quickly stabilize the individual insurance market by appropriating money for the payments and creating a stability fund for states.

“The American people rightfully expect Republicans and Democrats to come to the table and work together to find meaningful solutions that will improve our healthcare system and lower medical and insurance costs for all,” Republican Representative Leonard Lance, who is in the group of bipartisan lawmakers, said in a statement.

Insurers have asked the government to commit to making the $8 billion in payments for 2018, saying they may raise rates or leave the individual insurance marketplace if there is too much uncertainty.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Caroline Humer and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bill Trott and Richard Chang

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Trump aims at insurers in battle over healthcare subsidies

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