UPDATE 5-U.S. states plan suit to block Trump Obamacare subsidies cut

From Reuters - October 13, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A coalition of U.S. states lined up on Friday to sue to block President Donald Trumps move to scrap a key component of Obamacare, subsidies to health insurers that help low-income Americans pay out-of-pocket medical expenses.

One day after the administration announced plans to end the payments, Trump said he would dismantle Obamacare step by step, even as his latest action raised concerns about chaos in insurance markets.

Trumps action took aim at a critical component of the 2010 law, his Democratic predecessor Barack Obamas signature domestic policy achievement. Frustrated by the failure of his fellow Republicans who control Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump has taken several steps to chip away at it.

The administration will not make the next payment to insurers, scheduled for Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. The subsidies cost $7 billion this year and were estimated at $10 billion for 2018, according to congressional analysts.

The Democratic attorneys general of New York and California were joining forces with several other states, including Kentucky, Massachusetts and Connecticut, to file a lawsuit in federal court in California. The states will ask the court to force Trump to make the next payment, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, told reporters.

The new lawsuit would be separate from a case pending before an appeals court in the District of Columbia in which 16 Democratic state attorneys general are defending the legality of the payments.

About 10 million people are enrolled in Obamacare through its marketplace, and most receive subsidies. Trumps action came just weeks before the Obamacare open enrollment period begins on Nov. 1 for 2018 insurance policies through the laws marketplace.

Democrats accused Trump of sabotaging the law. But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer expressed optimism about chances for a deal with Republicans to continue the subsidy payments.

Were going to have a very good opportunity to get this done in a bipartisan way during negotiations in December on broad federal spending legislation, if we cant get it done sooner, Schumer told reporters.

Hospitals, doctors, health insurers, state insurance commissioners and patient advocates decried Trumps move, saying consumers will ultimately pay the price. They called on Congress to appropriate the funds needed to keep up the subsidy payments.

Trump, who as a candidate last year promised to roll back the law formally called the Affordable Care Act, received applause for his latest action during an appearance on Friday before a group of conservative voters.

Its step by step by step, and that was a very big step yesterday, Trump said. And one by one, its going to come down, and were going to have great healthcare in our country.

He said he was taking a little different route than we had hoped because of Congress inability to act. Republicans for seven years had vowed to get rid of Obamacare, but deep intra-party divisions have sunk their efforts to get legislation through the Senate.



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