Pressure grows for Trump to fund Obamacare subsidies

How Trump can upend Obamacare without Congress
How Trump can upend Obamacare without Congress

Health insurers aren't the only ones who want President Trump to commit to paying Obamacare's cost-sharing subsidies.

Add to the list: Attorneys general, business leaders, governors, medical providers and even some Republican lawmakers.

The payments, which go directly to insurers, reduce the deductibles and co-pays of lower-income Obamacare enrollees. They are also at the center of a court battle between the House and the Trump administration, which inherited the lawsuit from the Obama administration.

In the suit, House GOP lawmakers have argued that they never appropriated funds for the payments. A district court judge agreed last year and ruled that the subsidies were illegal, but Obama officials appealed. The House and the Trump administration have yet to come to a resolution.

Meanwhile, Trump has been trying to use the subsidies as a bargaining chip to jump start Congress' effort to repeal the health reform law. He's made several threats to end what he calls 'bailouts' for insurers and is paying the subsidies on a month-to-month basis.

But it may be harder now for the president to drop the appeal or to simply stop making the payments. A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled this week that a coalition of attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia could intervene in the case. The state lawyers say they will defend the legality of the subsidies in the case and sue Trump if he tries to stop them.

Related: 3 key dates in the battle over Obamacare's subsidies

"We can't rely on the Trump administration to defend the Affordable Care Act," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, one of the coalition's leaders. "We will do whatever we have to to protect the continuity of these payments."

Others are also putting pressure on Trump.

On Wednesday, industry groups representing insurers, doctors, hospitals and employers issued a statement stressing the importance of the subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans, saying they were vital to maintaining a stable health insurance marketplace.

"These benefits are essential to making coverage and care affordable for American families who receive them. Clarity and commitment to this funding is needed to eliminate confusion and anxiety for consumers," said the groups. "...we believe it is imperative that the administration fund the cost-sharing reduction program."

The National Governors Association also urged the president on Wednesday to fund the subsidies so that residents can continue to have access to affordable health insurance.

Related: Ending 'bailouts' for insurers could cost millions their health coverage

And Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican who chairs the influential health committee, said this week that he urged the president to make the payments through September so Congress could work on stabilizing Obamacare in the short-term. That bipartisan solution ideally should also include funding for the subsidies through 2018, he said.

"Without payment of these cost-sharing reductions, Americans will be hurt," Alexander said.

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