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July 20, 2017

Trump will make controversial ACA cost-sharing payments, at least this month

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The Trump administration on Wednesday confirmed that it will make this month's cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers due Thursday, but remained noncommittal about whether it will make the payments in future months.

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Insurers say the payments, which are called for under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), are essential to keeping down health plan premiums and maintaining insurer participation in the ACA's exchange markets. However, Republican lawmakers have successfully challenged the payments in court, saying Congress never actually funded them.

The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation in January estimated that the cost-sharing reduction payments would cost the federal government $7 billion in fiscal year 2017. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that the payments would cost the federal government $10 billion in 2018.

The Senate Republicans' Better Care Reconciliation Act and a recently revived ACA "repeal-and-delay" bill would guarantee the payments for 2018 and 2019, and on Tuesday Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) proposed a separate measure to fund the payments. However, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) suggested such a move is unlikely, characterizing it as a "bailout of insurance companies without reform."

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it is "undetermined" whether the administration will continue making the payments beyond this month (Weixel, The Hill, 7/19; Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 7/19; Ruger, Roll Call, 7/19; Nather/Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 7/20; Cancryn, Politico, 7/19).

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