The White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Wednesday got into a fiery exchange about the future of a key piece of the Affordable Care Act.
During an interview on “New Day,” Mulvaney and Cuomo argued the merits of so-called cost-sharing-reduction payments.
The CSR payments help reimburse health insurers for providing plans with low deductibles and low out-of-pocket costs for poorer Americans on the exchanges established by the ACA, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare.
Over the past few months, a slew of insurers and state insurance commissions have said that without the payments, premiums on the exchanges would increase substantially in 2018.
The future of the payments is embroiled in a lawsuit, and whether to pay them is essentially up to the Trump administration.
Mulvaney said the administration was deciding on a “month-by-month basis” whether to make the CSR payments.
When Cuomo asked whether the administration thought it might be hurting people by “holding those payments hostage” – pointing to the comments from insurers about the dangers of cutting them off – Mulvaney said the payments made little difference, since the exchanges were already in trouble.
“I feel like you’re dancing around the reality that you need those payments in order to stabilize the markets,” Cuomo said. “And if you’re holding them hostage, you’re essentially putting people at risk.”
“Chris, stop for a second,” Mulvaney replied. “Stop for a second! These payments have been there for years. The markets are not stable.”
Premiums on these exchanges have increased, though some evidence suggests it is partly because of insurers pricing plans too low in the early years of the law’s implementation. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-policy think tank, found that the exchanges were stabilizing and would continue to do so.
Cuomo and Mulvaney also argued about the White House’s repeated attempts to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the various Republican healthcare bills and the reasons the ACA’s exchanges were unstable over the past few years.
When Mulvaney suggested the ACA had prevented the market from lowering insurance costs, Cuomo said: “When has that ever worked in the insurance world? When have we ever seen that this free-enterprise notion makes things cheaper for people when it comes to health insurance? People were crippled by the cost before the ACA. You know that.”
“Yeah, I’d love to have a long conversation about what was broken with health insurance before Obamacare, what continues to be broken with insurance on Obamacare,” Mulvaney replied.
“Certainly still problems,” Cuomo said.
Watch part of the exchange: