House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Monday that he is in talks with the Trump administration about ways to restart key ObamaCare payments that the administration abruptly suspended this month.
The administration’s surprise suspension of $10.4 billion in payments to insurers this month set off a round of warnings of rising premiums and condemnation from Democrats who said it was further GOP “sabotage” of the health-care law.
Brady, a key congressional Republican on health-care issues, told reporters Monday that he is talking with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and others about how to restart the payments.
“The administration wants to restore those payments, so we’re looking at ways that we can help them do that,” Brady said.
He left open the possibility of legislative action to help address the situation.
The House is planning to vote next week on a range of health-care bills, including expanding health savings accounts and delaying or repealing certain ObamaCare taxes, Brady said.
Asked whether a fix to restart the payments could be included in that package next week, Brady said, “That I don’t know.”
“We’re continuing to engage with the secretary and others on this,” he said.
Democrats are using rising ObamaCare premiums as a prominent line of attack on Republicans ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Brady said Monday he wants to help with relief on premiums.
“I always remind everyone, these aren’t government tax dollars, these are private dollars that are exchanged between the insurers, so I think at a time when people are getting hammered under ObamaCare, frankly relief on those premiums [is] important,” Brady said.
The administration cited as its reason for stopping the payments a court ruling from a federal judge in New Mexico finding that the administration had not fully justified its formula for dispensing the funds, which are made through a program known as risk adjustment.
Brady likewise pointed to the court decision, saying he was “very concerned” by the ruling.
Legal experts and insurers say that the administration is overstating the effects of the court decision and it could restart the payments on its own.
Top congressional Democrats wrote to Azar earlier on Monday urging him to allow the payments to continue.
No taxpayer money is involved in the program. Instead money is collected from insurers with healthier patients overall and redistributed to insurers with sicker and more costly patients to help cover their costs.