| SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON May 18 More than a
dozen Democratic attorneys general will seek to intervene to
defend a key part of the Obamacare healthcare law -- subsidy
payments to insurance companies -- which is under threat in a
court case, sources familiar with the litigation said.
The attorneys general, led by California Attorney General
Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman,
are expected to file a motion to intervene in the case pending
in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit later on Thursday.
The case, which dates back to the Obama administration, was
filed by the Republican-led House of Representatives against the
federal government in an effort to cut off subsidy payments to
insurers for the individual plans created by the Affordable Care
Act, often called Obamacare.
The subsidies payments help cover out-of-pocket medical
expenses for low-income Americans.
Democratic attorneys general have emerged as a key group
resisting President Donald Trump's agenda, particularly around
immigration. Their intervention in the Obamacare subsidies
lawsuit represents a major expansion of that effort.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold the payments to
insurers, which amount to about $7 billion this year, and
referred to them as a "bailout."
The attorneys general are expected to cite Trump's own words
vowing to let Obamacare "explode" as part of the reasoning for
Several insurers, including Aetna and Humana
, have largely left the Obamacare exchanges, citing a
pool of patients who are sicker than expected and therefore more
expensive. Insurers have also repeatedly called on the Trump
administration to fund the cost-sharing subsidies.
Attorneys general and proponents of Obamacare have said the
threats to withhold the payments have already wreaked havoc in
the marketplaces and are part of the reason some healthcare
consumers have seen double-digit rate increases.
Several offices of Democratic attorneys general who are
believed to want to intervene in the case declined to comment
when contacted by Reuters.
Democratic attorneys general took a lead role to
successfully block Trump's executive orders restricting travel
from some Muslim-majority countries, and they are also resisting
efforts to roll back environmental regulations.
In May 2016, a U.S. judge ruled in favor of the Republicans
in the subsidies case, finding that the Obama administration
could not spend the money without the approval of Congress. The
Obama administration appealed before Trump took office, leaving
the new administration to ponder how to proceed.
The appeals court put the litigation on hold after the
November presidential election at the request of the Republican
The litigation could become moot if Congress repeals
Obamacare. The House passed its own healthcare bill, called the
American Health Care Act, earlier this month, which would repeal
much of Obamacare. The Senate recently began writing its own
version of the bill but has warned it could take months to pass.
The Trump administration has taken action over the past
several months to undercut Obamacare through regulatory
authority. It backed off enforcing the individual mandate, which
requires everyone to purchase health insurance or else pay a
penalty, tightened enrollment in Obamacare markets and has
enabled people to sign up for insurance plans outside of
healthcare.gov, the flagship site of Obamacare that the Obama
administration heavily advertised.
(Editing by Alistair Bell)