California and other states have protected consumers from the Trump administration’s decision to cut off “Obamacare” health care subsidies, a federal judge said Monday, so people don’t face an immediate threat of higher costs that would lead him to order the payments resumed.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria did not issue a ruling yet on a request by California and 18 other states to force the government to keep making the payments while the case works its way through the courts, which will take months.
State attorneys general, led by California Democrat Xavier Becerra, argue the monthly payments are required under former President Barack Obama’s health care law and stopping them will hurt consumers.
The cost-sharing payments aim to reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people. President Donald Trump halted the subsidies earlier this month, criticizing them as insurance company bailouts.
California and other states had anticipated the subsidies would end and found a way to ensure consumers would not pay more for insurance, Chhabria said during a hearing. The states limited the plans for which insurance companies could hike premiums, ensuring that many people would receive additional tax credits for health care purchases, the judge said.
The Obama appointee peppered an attorney for California with questions about why he should force the administration to resume payments when there was no immediate harm to consumers.
“The state of California is standing on the courthouse steps denouncing the president for taking away people’s health care, when the truth is that California has come up with a solution to that issue that is going to result in better health care for a lot of people,” he said.
The White House says the government cannot legally pay the subsidies because there is no formal authorization from Congress.
However, the administration had been making the monthly payments even as Trump threatened to cut them off to force Democrats to negotiate over health care. A bipartisan effort in Congress to restore the payments has run into opposition.
The payments reimburse insurers for the costs of lowering copays and deductibles, which they are required to do for low-income customers who buy coverage through the health care marketplaces created by Obama’s law.
The states argue that the Trump administration violated a law requiring government agencies to obey existing statutes and follow orderly and transparent procedures.
Democratic attorneys general have pushed back against Trump’s agenda in the federal courts, looking to block the president’s attempts to roll back Obama’s policies on the environment, health care and immigration.
The states joining California in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.
Source: Associated Press