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Delaware officials blast feds ending health subsidies for low-income residents

Atty Gen. Matt Denn

Delaware officials plan to challenge President Donald Trump’s decision to end Affordable Care Act subsidies to health insurers that help cover low-income people.

Eligible people will still get tax credits to purchase coverage, but the federal government won’t reimburses insurance companies for the difference.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware is the state’s only insurer offering ACA compliant plans. It said it’s studying the President’s action.

Gov. John Carney denounced the decision. He said it was bad for residents, businesses and the economy.

"Less than three weeks away from the start of open enrollment on Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace, the President’s action will lead to thousands of Delawareans deciding that health insurance is no longer affordable for them and their families," he said. "That will lead to more people being uninsured in our state, which eventually means increased premiums for all of us."

Attorney General Matt Denn said Delaware is joining 18 other states in suing over the move, demanding the feds maintain the payments.

The Trump administration argues the payments are unlawful because Congress didn’t appropriate the money. But Denn said the government is violating the law by stopping them.

“Our argument is a - that it’s not discretionary for the president and b - that it’s really arbitrary that he’s been making these payments, which the federal government has been since he took office in January and that they are abruptly changing course,” he said.

The lawsuit asks a judge to force the government to continue making payments while the litigation winds through the courts.

About 27,000 Delawareans get insurance through the state’s marketplace. They are already paying 25 percent higher premiums next year because Highmark worked under assumption the Trump administration would end the payments.

Deputy Insurance Commissioner Mitch Crane says while this won’t affect next year’s rates, premium increases in 2019 could make health insurance coverage unaffordable for many people.

“It’s like saying ‘Hey, I’ll lend you 50 dollars and you my friend will give me 20 back,’ so I’m only losing 30," he said. "And then suddenly I’m not getting that 30 back anymore. So I can’t continue to give you money. I mean, that’s really how simple it is.”

Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons also blasted the move.

"Cutting cost-sharing reduction payments is just one example of his continued efforts to take heath care away from the most vulnerable among us," Carper said.

Coons urged the president to support biaprtisan negotiations in the Senate.

"Unfortunately, President Trump seems determined to sabotage the ACA regardless of the consequences," he said. "The President should instead encourage and support bipartisan efforts in Congress to improve health care for all Americans."

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