The deadline for Congress to reach a deal on a funding bill is quickly approaching. The current CR was passed by the lame-duck Congress last year after they were unable to reach an agreement on a larger package. A budget must be passed by April 28 to avoid a government shutdown. Congressional Democrats have said they will fight to ensure Obamacare subsidies are included in the budget. An aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated this is her “top priority.”
Funding for the subsidies has support from Congressional Republicans weary of destabilizing the insurance market, but President Trump has expressed opposition. The subsidies are part of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reductions (CSR). The payments are provided to insurance providers to reduce the cost of insurance for low-income patients.
The funding issue creates a problem for House Republicans who are still fighting the constitutionality of the subsidies in court. Their lawsuit argues the payments are illegal as they were not approved by Congress. Funding the Obamacare subsidies would likely kill their legal challenge.
Many Republicans want to avoid funding the subsidies directly and would prefer the Trump administration to continue paying for the program. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has said he has faith in the White House to “stabilize Obamacare’s collapsing marketplace” while Congressional Republicans continue their repeal and replace efforts.
Another possible outcome is that Congress approves a short term spending bill to delay the negotiation required for a larger package.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said last month, “I will do everything I can to make sure the cost-sharing reduction payments get made, especially this year, where they were promised by the federal government under the contracts. That’s an obligation not only to insurers but also to the people who took on those plans. We cannot leave them high and dry.”