Jamaica Gleaner / WASHINGTON (AP):

A key moderate Republican yesterday urged United States President Donald Trump to back a bipartisan Senate effort to shield consumers from rising premiums after his abrupt decision to halt federal payments to insurers, calling the move “disruptive” and an immediate threat to access to health care.

“What the president is doing is affecting people’s access and the cost of health care right now,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has cast pivotal votes on health care in the narrowly divided Senate. “This is not a bailout of the insurers. What this money is used for is to help low-income people afford their deductibles and their co-pays.

“Congress needs to step in, and I hope that the president will take a look at what we’re doing,” she added.

Her comments reflected an increasing focus yesterday on the bipartisan Senate effort led by Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tennesse, and Patty Murray, D-Washington, to at least temporarily reinstate the payments to avoid immediate turmoil in the insurance market, even as Trump signalled he wouldn’t back a deal without getting something he wants in return.

The payments will be stopped beginning this week, with sign-up season for subsidised private insurance set to start on November 1.

“The president is not going to continue to throw good money after bad, give US$7 billion to insurance companies unless something changes about Obamacare that would justify it,” said Senator. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who golfed with Trump on Saturday at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.

“It’s got to be a good deal,” Graham said.

In his decision last week, Trump derided the $7 billion in subsidies as bailouts to insurers and suggested he was trying to get Democrats to negotiate and agree to a broader effort to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law, a bid that repeatedly crashed in the GOP-run Senate this summer.

The payments seek to lower out-of-pocket costs for insurers, which are required under Obama’s law to reduce poorer people’s expenses – about six million people. To recoup the lost money, carriers are likely to raise 2018 premiums for people buying their own health insurance policies.


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