Attorneys for the House of Representatives have asked a federal appeals court to put their lawsuit over certain Obamacare payments on ice until President-elect Donald Trump enters office and decides how he wants to proceed.
As it stands, the Obama administration is appealing a lower-court ruling that sided with House Republicans who argue the government is unlawfully reimbursing insurers who assist low-income customers with their out-of-pocket costs under Obamacare.
U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer had said the cost-sharing payments must stop until Capitol Hill explicitly appropriates the money, though she stayed her ruling pending the appeal.
Attorneys on both sides were preparing briefs on that appeal, though House attorneys asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit if they could revisit the issue on Feb. 21, or about a month after Mr. Trump assumes office with a GOP-controlled Congress.
“In light of public statements by the President-Elect and his campaign, there is at least a significant possibility of a meaningful change in policy in the new administration that could either obviate the need for resolution of this appeal or affect the nature and scope of the issues presented for review,” their motion, filed Monday, said.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence says the Trump administration will focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act out of the gate, though Republicans are treading cautiously on how and when to phase in that repeal and replace it with their own reforms, since millions have gained coverage under President Obama’s signature program.
A disruption in cost-sharing payments targeted by House lawsuit could make that process more chaotic.
Millions of Obamacare customers with incomes between 100 percent and 250 percent of poverty rely on the payments, and health plans are required to reduce their out-of-pocket costs whether they’re reimbursed or not, so they’d likely increase rates to balance their ledgers.
The Treasury Department determined in 2012 that it needed to ask Congress for money for the program — but then rescinded that decision, withdrew its budget request and drafted a new memo saying it no longer needed lawmakers’ blessing.
It began to spend the money on its own, prompting an outcry and litigation from House Republicans.
The Obama administration did not consent to the House’s motion, though the GOP’s attorneys say it won’t be harmed, since the status quo is still in place.
“Given the significant likelihood of a change in administration position, considerations of judicial economy and the avoidance of unnecessary burdens on litigants justify a delay in the briefing schedule,” the GOP’s motion says.