I previously gave you a backgrounder on the House GOP lawsuit House v. Price (née House v. Burwell) for which the next status report to the Court is due today.
Politico reports that instead of filing the status report, the White House seeks 90-day delay in Obamacare subsidy suit:
The Trump administration and House of Representatives Monday asked a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, undermining the future of the health care marketplaces as insurers look for certainty from the government before committing to offer coverage next year.
“The parties continue to discuss measures that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action,” the House and White House wrote to the court.
If the request is approved, the parties would have to file another update in 90 days.
“We continue to work with the Trump administration on a solution,” said AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan.
The suit, House v. Price, centers on Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital. The case was brought by House Republicans during the Obama administration. But the case has taken on added significance as Republicans try to repeal the health law: without the $7 billion in payments, insurers say they cannot remain afloat in the Obamacare markets.
The administration declined to say if it will make more cost-sharing reduction payments.
But late last week Politico reported, Trump said to favor move that could destabilize Obamacare:
President Donald Trump has told advisers he wants to end payments of key Obamacare subsidies, a move that could send the health law’s insurance markets into a tailspin, according to several sources familiar with the conversations.
Many advisers oppose the move because they worry it will backfire politically if people lose their insurance or see huge premium spikes and blame the White House, the sources said. Trump has said that the bold move could force Congressional Democrats to the table to negotiate an Obamacare replacement.
Trump told aides in a Tuesday Oval Office meeting that he wants to end the payments to insurers, according to people familiar with his comments. Trump has previously expressed conflicting opinions on the issue. Insurers have been pressing for certainty as they plan for next year.
The subsidies have already been paid for May.
Insurers expressed relief the administration didn’t cut off the subsidies immediately, but they stressed they need to know whether the payments ultimately will be continued.
“Time is really running out,” said Ceci Connolly, CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, noting that insurers are now filing 2018 rates. “The uncertainty is becoming nearly impossible for plans and the families that count on these subsidies.”
And this is the real reason for the 90 day request for delay: continued uncertainty created by the House and President on wheter CSRs will continue to be funded will cause some insurers to pull out of the market during the plan filing period which convenienty falls during the next 90 days (according to a filing schedule notice). Then Tea-Publicans will claim that “Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight” rather than the true reason, it is due to purposeful and malicious sabotage by the GOP. It is a chickenshit move.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association today released a blueprint laying out principles that it believes must be included in any health care overhaul, including protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions and financial assistance that varies by income, age and geography. But taking precedence is the more immediate threat that the subsidies will go away.
“There’s a urgent need to have certainty about what will happen,” said Justine Handelman, BCBSA’s senior vice president for the office of policy and representation.
* * *
The Obama administration appealed House v. Burwell to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Most legal analysts expected the Obama White House — or a Hillary Clinton White House — to prevail because that appeals panel has several judges appointed by Democrats.
But Trump’s election victory upended those plans, converting the lawsuit into a battle between the Republican House and Republican White House. His administration sought a delay in late February, giving it until today to inform the court how it wanted to proceed.
If the Trump administration ultimately drops the appeal, the subsidy payments — which are made monthly — could come to a sudden halt. Insurance companies are allowed to leave the exchanges as soon as the payments end, but it is unclear whether they would opt to exit and to drop patients with little notice.
Defunding the cost-sharing program would destabilize the health insurance market immediately.
Dropping the appeal also means that the decision to allow the House to sue the White House would stand — a precedent that a future White House would likely fight.
In the Trump administration allows the appeal move forward, the House would almost certainly lose on both issues in the appeals court — a prospect the House would like to avoid.
This is purposeful and malicious behavior, intentionally meant to harm millions of Americans, some of whom face certain death without access to affordable health care. Such amoral behavior rightfully must be punished. Voters need to remove these Tea-Publicans from office in 2018.
UPDATE: Jordan Weissmann at Slate adds, The White House Wants Everyone to Keep Guessing Whether It Will Nuke Obamacare:
By simply leaving the fate of the CSRs in limbo, Trump is pretty much ensuring Americans will pay more for their health coverage next year. Insurers have begun submitting their rate requests to state regulators for 2018, and uncertainty over the president’s decision has already caused some companies to ask for major rate hikes this year just in case the subsidies are eventually cut off. Allowing this issue to linger for another three months will force pretty much every coverage provider to set its prices without knowing whether the subsidies will last, which will force them to charge more. This move probably won’t cause an immediate crisis for the insurance markets, but it will continue to undermine them, as higher premiums will likely drive away more customers. Some carriers may also choose to bail rather than deal with the guessing game.
* * *
This might all suit the administration’s political purposes better than dropping the appeal entirely. Simply cutting off the CSRs would be an overt move that would trigger a wave of media attention, with lots of cable news headlines about Trump choosing the nuclear option on health care. Delaying the issue will instead subtly sabotage the exchanges without capsizing them outright—which will make it easier for Trump to suggest that Obamacare is failing on its own and must be replaced. The president is doing plenty of damage by doing nothing.