Trump cuts off health care subsidies

  • 14/10/2017
Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump has urged Democrats to make a deal with him on health care after he scrapped billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies to private health insurers for low-income Americans.

The Trump administration on Friday disclosed the date of the subsidies cut-off after announcing late on Thursday the most dramatic action the president has taken to undercut Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature 2010 healthcare law.

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

Mr Trump has made the payments, guaranteed to insurers under Obamacare to help lower out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income consumers, each month since taking office in January. But he has repeatedly threatened to cut them off and disparaged them as a "bailout" for insurance companies.

The move drew swift condemnation from congressional Democrats, who accused Mr Trump of sabotaging the law, and threats from Democratic state attorneys general in New York and California to take legal action.

Mr Trump, a Republican who promised as a candidate last year to dismantle the law formally called the Affordable Care Act, urged opponents to reach out to him to make a deal.

"The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!" Mr Trump said in a post on Twitter early on Friday, calling the law "a broken mess".

Mr Trump has been frustrated by the failure of his fellow Republicans who control congress to repeal and replace Obamacare despite seven years of promises to get rid of the law that has brought health insurance to 20 million people.

His decision is likely to please those in his hard-line conservative political base who detest the Affordable Care Act, which many Republicans have attacked as an unneeded government intrusion in Americans' healthcare.

In a nod to that same constituency, the President signed an executive order on Thursday intended to make it easier for Americans to buy bare-bones health insurance plans exempt from Obamacare requirements.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi derided the subsidies cutoff in a joint statement, saying Mr Trump would single-handedly push Americans' healthcare premiums higher.

"It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage levelled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America," they said. "Make no mistake about it, Mr Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it."