Courts & Crime

States sue Trump to preserve Obamacare discounts

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday he is suing the Trump administration to stop the federal Department of Health and Human Services from withholding cost-sharing subsidies that help low- and middle-income people pay for health coverage under the federal health care law.

Becerra, joined by attorneys general from Kentucky, Connecticut, Massachusetts characterized the move by Trump as cruel and reckless maneuver to “sabotage” Obamacare.

“Undermining the Affordable Care Act has been Donald Trump’s and many Republicans’ plans for a long time,” Becerra said. “It’s long past time that President Trump learned that he doesn’t get to just pick and choose which laws he’ll follow, and which bills he’ll pay.”

“We’re going to court today because we need to stand up for families across this country,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Becerra and the other attorneys general said they are filing the federal lawsuit Friday, arguing that withholding cost-sharing subsidies is unlawful and violates a mandate in the law. Cost-sharing subsidies under Obamacare help lower consumer out-of-pocket health care costs.

President Donald Trump defended plans to withhold federal payments on Twitter in the early morning hours Friday.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding,” he wrote. “Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

He wrote “ObamaCare is a broken mess. Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great Health Care it deserves!”

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan announced the plans to halt cost-sharing subsidies Thursday, saying “We will discontinue these payments immediately.”

Ending federal payments would cause premiums to rise, unless Trump changes his mind or Congress takes separate action to authorize the money. The next federal payments are due Oct. 20.

In statements, California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris blasted Trump for taking steps to unwind Obamacare, following several failed Republican attempts to repeal and replace the federal health care law.

“Make no mistake, without congressional action, President Trump’s decision to stop reimbursing insurance companies for the cost of reducing co-pays for low-income enrollees will break individual insurance markets across the country,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Harris called the action “devastating.”

“Millions will lose access to affordable health care, plunging ACA markets into chaos and risking insurance even for those who don’t require assistance,” Harris said in a statement.

Becerra said the lawsuit is aimed at preserving the cost-sharing payments and preventing people from losing financial assistance to cover health care costs. If Trump is successful, insurance premiums could increase 15 to 20 percent, Becerra estimated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports