President Trump has said on several occasions that Republicans would be smart to let the Affordable Care Act just collapse on its own so Democrats would be forced to help negotiate a deal to replace or radically change the law. Now, he's threatening to push ObamaCare over the cliff himself. Trump wants to use billions in subsidies to help low-income people afford health care as leverage to drag Democrats to the negotiating table, Politico says, citing "three administration officials with knowledge of Trump's thinking." Trump told The Wall Street Journal the same thing in a 70-minute interview on Wednesday.
Former President Barack Obama approved the estimated $7 billion in cost-sharing subsidies, which help insurance companies pay customers' medical bills. Scrapping the subsidies would likely crash the ObamaCare individual marketplaces. "ObamaCare is dead next month if it doesn't get that money," Trump told The Wall Street Journal. "I don't want people to get hurt," he added. "What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "should be calling me and begging me to help him save ObamaCare, along with Nancy Pelosi," the House minority leader, Trump said.
Schumer criticized Trump's "cynical strategy" of "threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans ... to achieve a political goal of repeal that would take health care away from millions more." Pelosi said Trump's "appalling threat" is aimed at trying to "manufacture a crisis," using "millions of families" as a bargaining chip.
House Speaker Paul Ryan backs continuing the subsidies for now, although House Republicans sued to block Obama from paying them out; a federal judge agreed last year that the payments are improper but allowed them to continue on appeal. On Monday, the Health and Human Services Department told The New York Times that the Trump administration may continue paying the subsidies, drawing a rebuke from the HHS that was, two administration officials tell Politico, "personally ordered by an incensed Trump, who feared that the Times story hurt his negotiating position."
In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week, 75 percent of Americans said they want the Trump administration to make ObamaCare work rather than make it fail, and 61 percent said they would hold Trump and the GOP responsible for any problems with the law. "I don't think Trump really wants to cut the subsidies, because he'd get blamed for people losing insurance," a White House official told Politico. "But right now, it might be his biggest way to force people to do something."