Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond has continued the group’s vow to fight efforts by Republican lawmakers and the White House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including the latest threat by President Donald Trump to gut the law despite several failed attempts to replace it by the GOP.
Richmond sent out a sobering reminder for those who believe repealing the law would mostly hurt African-Americans.
“Obamacare is not just for blacks,” the Louisiana Democrat said. “There are many poor white people through rural areas and urban centers that benefit from the Affordable Care Act.”
Now, health insurers, attorney generals, business leaders, governors, medical providers and even some Republican lawmakers want Trump to commit to paying Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies.
The payments, which go directly to insurers, reduce the deductibles and co-pays of lower-income Obamacare enrollees. They are also at the center of a court battle between the House and the Trump administration, which inherited the lawsuit from the Obama administration, CNN reported.
In the suit, House GOP lawmakers have argued that they never appropriated funds for the payments. A district court judge agreed last year and ruled that the subsidies were illegal, but Obama officials appealed. The House and the Trump administration have yet to come to a resolution.
Meanwhile, Trump has been trying to use the subsidies as a bargaining chip to jump start Congress’ effort to repeal the health reform law. He’s made several threats to end what he calls ‘bailouts’ for insurers and is paying the subsidies on a month-to-month basis.
But it may be harder now for the president to drop the appeal or to simply stop making the payments. A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last week that a coalition of attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia could intervene in the case.
The state lawyers say they will defend the legality of the subsidies in the case and sue Trump if he tries to stop them.
“We can’t rely on the Trump administration to defend the Affordable Care Act,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, one of the coalition’s leaders, told CNN. “We will do whatever we have to, to protect the continuity of these payments.”
Others are also putting pressure on Trump.
Industry groups representing insurers, doctors, hospitals and employers issued a statement stressing the importance of the subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans, saying they are vital to maintaining a stable health insurance marketplace.
“These benefits are essential to making coverage and care affordable for American families who receive them,” officials from the groups said in the statement. “Clarity and commitment to this funding is needed to eliminate confusion and anxiety for consumers. We believe it is imperative that the administration fund the cost-sharing reduction program.”
The National Governors Association also urged the president to fund the subsidies so that residents can continue to have access to affordable health insurance.
And Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican who chairs the influential health committee, said that he urged the president to make the payments through September so Congress could work on stabilizing Obamacare in the short term.
That bipartisan solution ideally should also include funding for the subsidies through 2018, he said.
“Without payment of these cost-sharing reductions, Americans will be hurt,” Alexander said.
Meanwhile, the CBC hasn’t softened its stance against Trump’s policies, including his determination to repeal Obamacare. The group declined an invitation to meet with the president in June, in part because of his unrelenting desire to do away with former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
“[Trump’s] policies … will devastate black communities, not to mention your effort to dismantle our nation’s health care system,” Richmond wrote in a letter to the president in June.
“The CBC, and the millions of people we represent, have a lot to lose under your administration,” he said, a thinly-veiled response to Trump’s campaign overture to black voters, in which he asked “what the hell do you have to lose” by voting for him.
“I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for,” Richmond said.