The Senate’s top Democrat accused President Donald Trump on Tuesday of childish behavior by threatening to halt federal payments that help millions afford health coverage, saying such a move would impose a “Trump premium tax” by forcing consumers’ insurance costs upward.
The criticism by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came after repeated threats by Trump to halt the expenditures, which Trump and other Republicans call bailouts.
It also came as the No. 2 Senate Republican leader seemed to suggest that the two parties should try working together on health care.
Citing the Senate’s “fragile majorities,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said “We are forced to work together to try solve these problems, and I think frankly bipartisan solutions tend to be more durable.”
Cornyn didn’t specify what issues the two sides could address together. But his comments followed last week’s crumpling of the Senate Republican effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Along those lines, Senate GOP health committee chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee discussed health care Tuesday at a private meeting with the panel’s top Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington.
Attention has been focused on the White House, where Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off federal disbursements insurers use to lower out-of-pocket costs for low- and moderate income consumers buying individual policies. The payments total $7 billion this year and are helping around 7 million people afford coverage.
Last week, Trump tweeted that if the Senate didn’t approve health care legislation, “BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies” would end “very soon!”
“His only stated reason is petty, is childish,” Schumer said Tuesday. He added, “You don’t hurt innocent people, Mr. President, when you lose politically. That is not presidential, that is not frankly what an adult does.”
Obama’s statute requires that insurers reduce costs for many customers. But a federal court has blocked the federal reimbursements to insurers, saying the funds have yet to be properly authorized by Congress. Trump and Obama before him have continued the payments temporarily.
The payments to insurers are backed by Democrats and some Republicans because many experts say that even the threat of cutting them off is already prompting insurers to raise prices and consider abandoning some markets. Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for the insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said halting the…