States to ask judge to keep health subsidies
San Francisco — The top lawyers for 19 states will urge a federal judge Monday to force President Donald Trump’s administration to pay health care subsidies that he abruptly cut off earlier this month.
State attorneys general, led by California Democrat Xavier Becerra, argue the monthly payments are required under former President Barack Obama’s health care law and stopping them will harm consumers.
The Trump administration announced earlier this month that it will cut off cost-sharing reduction payments, which aim to reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people.
Trump has said Obama’s law is imploding and has criticized the subsidies as insurance company bailouts. The White House says the government cannot legally continue paying the subsidies because there is no formal authorization from Congress.
However, the administration had been making the monthly payments even as Trump threatened to cut them off to force Democrats to negotiate over health care. A bipartisan effort in Congress to restore the payments has run into opposition.
The payments reimburse insurers for the costs of lowering copays and deductibles, which they are required to do for low-income customers who buy coverage through the health care marketplaces created by Obama’s law.
The states argue that the Trump administration violated a law requiring government agencies to obey existing statutes and follow orderly and transparent procedures.
“He’s threatening access for millions of Americans to decent, quality health care, and it’s time for him to stop playing this game, because for too many people, it’s not a game,” Becerra said last week.
The states are asking U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, an Obama appointee, to force the government to keep making the payments while the case works its way through the courts, which will take months.
Democratic attorneys general have pushed back against Trump’s agenda in the federal courts, looking to block the president’s attempts to roll back Obama’s policies on the environment, health care and immigration.
The states joining California in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.