The government will make this month's payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law that President Trump still wants to repeal and replace, the AP reports. "The August payment will be made," a White House spokesman said Wednesday. Trump has repeatedly threatened to end the payments, which help slash health insurance copays and deductibles for people with modest incomes, but remain under a legal cloud. The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that premiums for a popular type of individual health-care plan under the Affordable Care Act would rise sharply, and that more people would be left without options for coverage, if Trump kept his threat to stop the payments. Moreover, ending the payments would only increase federal deficits since it would trigger a rise in separate health-law subsidies for premiums, wiping out any potential savings.
The cost-sharing subsidies are considered vital to guarantee stability for consumers who buy their own individual health-insurance policies (an estimated 18 million or so). The subsidies are snared in a legal dispute over whether the ACA properly approved the payments to insurers, with other parts of the law clearly directing the government to reimburse carriers. For months, Trump has been mulling terminating payments as a way to trigger a crisis and get Democrats to negotiate on a health care bill. But with polls showing the public would blame Trump for ObamaCare problems on his watch, congressional Republicans aren't keen on that route. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray says Trump should clear up the uncertainty for good. "People shouldn't have to wonder each month whether ... Trump is going to throw the health care system into chaos and cause premiums to spike," she notes. (Read more health care stories.)