When the Republican’s Obamacare replacement bill crashed and burned spectacularly on March 24, President Donald Trump said that he was dropping the whole healthcare thing and forging ahead to tax reform. Now he’s poking the bear again, by threatening to not reimburse health insurers who cover the costs of low income people as a means of forcing the Democrats back to negotiations.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Trump made it clear that he still hasn’t figured out that a government cannot be run like a business. “I’m going to get healthcare done,” he said, speaking about a complicated and nuanced issue as if it were one more thing on his checklist before heading out for the weekend. “Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump told the Journal, before saying that despite what he’s threatening, he doesn’t want people to “get hurt.”
“What I think should happen and will happen is that the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating,” he said, speaking about the intricacies of healthcare—an issue that took President Obama the entirety of his time in the White House to sort of figure out —as if he were a parent trying to convince their small child to eat their broccoli by threatening to cancel Christmas.
The payments that Trump is threatening to cut off are ones that reduce the copays and deductibles for some low-income people insured under Obamacare, which are made directly to the insurance companies. They’re also at the center of an ongoing House lawsuit, led by former House Speaker John Boehner, who claimed that former President Obama couldn’t authorize those payments without congressional authority, CNN reports. Without the continuation of those payments, insurers could pull out of the marketplace completely, effectively screwing over the 58 percent who signed up for Obamacare in 2017 and also qualify for these subsidies in dire straits.
Both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Nancy Pelosi have stated that they will not discuss any sort of deal while this hopefully idle threat remains on the table. Condemning Trump’s comments, Schumer called the attempt to negotiate a “cynical strategy.”
“President Trump is threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him, to achieve a political goal of repeal that would take health care away from millions more,” he said in a statement.
Nancy Pelosi was a bit harsher: “Refusing to make the Cost Sharing Reduction payments has no purpose but to hurt millions of people, and manufacture a crisis.”