House Republicans had filed the suit in response to a series of President Barack Obama’s unilateral executive actions on paying insurers that they said were unconstitutional.
The Trump administration and House Republicans on Tuesday asked a court for a further delay in a lawsuit over certain Affordable Care Act subsidies, a move that may help assuage insurers debating whether to participate in the health law’s 2018 exchanges. In May, a federal district court judge ruled that the government was improperly reimbursing insurers to help them cover discounts they were required to give some low-income consumers, potentially a major blow to the insurers.
An end to the lawsuit could mean an end to the subsidy payments, so lawmakers would be prompted to act if they want to keep the insurance market stable while they come up with legislation. Insurers have called the payments “critical,” and made the issue their chief lobbying priority. Top Republicans, including appropriators, now say they’re willing to make the payments as they implement a health policy overhaul, despite a previous unwillingness to do so under the Obama administration that sparked the lawsuit in the first place.
The House filed the lawsuit two years ago, arguing that the cost-sharing reductions to insurers are illegal because Congress has not provided a specific appropriation for them.
Now lawyers for the House of Representatives and the Department of Justice want the case to remain on hold, meaning insurers would still receive payments in the meantime. Both sides proposed keeping the case on hold and giving status reports every three months, beginning May 22, 2017, according to a joint motion. “The House and Department of Justice filed a motion seeking more time to continue efforts to resolve the lawsuit without the court’s assistance,” Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said in an email.
Health insurers are pleased the Trump administration wants to give them seven extra weeks to file rates for individual-market plans in 2018. But that move does little to settle their uncertainty about whether to offer plans at all. Their anxiety has been heightened by the Republican drive to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and by a pending House Republican lawsuit to block certain payments to insurers. Carriers say they need to know the rules of any new system before they can design plans and set rates.