A federal judge on Wednesday handed the Trump administration a victory in President Donald Trump’s efforts to change how Obamacare operates using his executive authority.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco rejected the arguments of 18 Democrat attorneys general and said the administration can end cost-sharing reduction payments, which Trump had criticized as a windfall for insurance companies.
The states fighting Trump wanted the judge to compel Trump to keep making the payments while their case against him goes through the court system, according to The Associated Press.
Chhabria, who was nominated for his post by President Barack Obama, said the administration had the “stronger legal argument” and the action states wanted would be “counterproductive” because they had already found a way to prevent Trump’s action from resulting in higher premiums for lower-income people.
Chhabria also mused that the lawsuit seemed to be about more than consumers.
Why “have all these attorneys general rushed to court seeking an emergency ruling against President Trump?” Chhabria had said Monday during oral arguments in the case.
“The state of California is standing on the courthouse steps denouncing the president for taking away people’s health care, when the truth is that California has come up with a solution to that issue that is going to result in better health care for a lot of people,” Chhabria said.
Gregory Brown, who represented California at the hearing, said the loss of the subsidies created “uncertainty and chaos” that could result in insurance companies refusing to offer policies.
In his Wednesday ruing, Chhabria said that the states had shown Trump’s action caused no damage.
“State regulators have been working for months to prepare for the termination of these payments,” he wrote Wednesday. “And although you wouldn’t know it from reading the states’ papers in this lawsuit, the truth is that most state regulators have devised responses that give millions of lower-income people better health coverage options than they would otherwise have had.”
Chhabria said states might want to sing a different tune.
“One last point on the issue of confusion,” Chhabria wrote. “If the states are so concerned that people will be scared away from the exchanges by the thought of higher premiums, perhaps they should stop yelling about higher premiums. With open enrollment just days away, perhaps the states should focus instead on communicating the message that they have devised a response to the CSR payment termination that will prevent harm to the large majority of people while in fact allowing millions of lower-income people to get a better deal on health insurance in 2018.”
The states joining California in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.
In announcing its decision to end the subsidies, the Trump White House said it was following the law, CNN reported.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the decision was “based on guidance from the Justice Department.”
“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” Sanders said in a statement.
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