Lawmakers on Capitol Hill could be gearing up for a big fight over health care funding, after President Donald Trump threatened to withhold subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
The President made the comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, indicating the move would be in an effort to bring Democratic lawmakers to the negotiating table.
However, Washington state insurance industry experts worry it could trigger panic and instability in the marketplace as insurers get ready to set their rates ahead of next year.
“It’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for our state, because it has the potential to destabilize our individual health insurance market. That could be for this year and for years to come,” said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
Marchand and other industry leaders interpret Trump’s comments to refer to subsidies known as cost sharing reduction funding, which assist with co-payments, deductables, and out of pocket costs for certain poverty level Affordable Care Act recipients.
Marchand estimates 70,000 individuals in Washington state benefit from the subsides, as well as seven million nationwide.
If the subsidies are not funded by the government, industry insiders worry premiums could spike, or insurers could pull out of the state marketplace.
“You have the president making statements like this that only heighten uncertainty in market,” Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “You’re playing with people’s lives here."
Insurers have until June 7 to set their rates for 2018, after the deadline was extended by Kreidler given the ongoing uncertainty around the GOP healthcare repeal and replacement plan.
Details of the legislation’s future remain in limbo, weeks after Republicans pulled the bill from the House floor.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-8th District, who voted in favor of the bill when it passed the Ways and Means Committee switched to an “undecided,” as changes were made to appease the conservative freedom caucus.
Reichert was among moderate Republican “Tuesday group” who went to the White House the night before the bill faltered. He said he expressed concern over the proposal for a three part series to complete the legislation.
“People don’t understand the three part plan. They’re not sure the third part of the plan can be even completed,” said Reichert in an interview last week.
“There’s still concern over whether pre-existing conditions is going to be part of the bill,” said Reichert.
“That is one of the main things that comes up, and that is one of the things that certain members of our conference are trying to remove, because it’s not a total repeal, but there are members like myself that are saying, there is no way in the world that I could support a bill that would remove pre-existing conditions or covering your 26-year-old child. We made those promises already,” said Reichert.
When asked if Reichert would have liked to see a bi-partisan effort on healthcare, he said he would have liked to see that from the start.
“If we can’t work together on these things, down the line, if it’s always partisan—the next majority will come in and try to tear it apart,” said Reichert. “This country is so divided; it’s very volatile and sad to watch.”