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Democrats condemn Trump's 'spiteful act' of ending Obamacare payments

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hold a news conference on Oct. 4. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer swiftly condemned the Trump administration’s decision to slash key Obamacare subsidies — an act that could cause health insurance companies to bolt from the online marketplace and dramatically increase out-of-pocket costs for poorer Americans.

“Sadly, instead of working to lower health costs for Americans, it seems President Trump will singlehandedly hike Americans’ health premiums. It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America. Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement early Friday.

The Democratic leaders accused Trump of punishing the American people for his own inability to improve the U.S. health care system. They argued that the Republicans’ American Health Care Act collapsed because most Americans “recognized the cruelty and higher costs it meant for them and their loved ones.”

“Now, millions of hard-working American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to,” they continued. “If these reports are true, the President is walking away from the good faith, bipartisan Alexander-Murray negotiations and risking the health care of millions of Americans.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement late Thursday night that since the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, had not set aside a sum of money to reduce payments to insurance companies, the U.S. government could not legally make these cost-sharing reduction payments.

President Trump on Thursday shows an executive order on health care that he signed. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump signed an executive order late Thursday that would make it easier for Americans to purchase cheaper health insurance plans that do not cover essential benefits and would allow small businesses to cross state lines to buy simpler plans. In another blow to Obamacare, he is stopping payments to insurance companies that had been guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.

“We will discontinue these payments immediately,” acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and Medicare Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement Thursday night.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in August that Obamacare premiums would rise by 20 percent by 2018 and 25 percent by 2020 if the cost-sharing reductions were terminated.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” Sanders said. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

On Friday afternoon, shortly after Trump spoke about his refusal to certify that Iran is complying with the controversial nuclear deal, Pelosi gave a speech of her own — continuing to criticize Trump for his actions the night before.

“Make no mistake, last night the president single-handedly decided to raise America’s health premiums for no reason other than spite and cruelty,” Pelosi said. “Cost-reduction payments are essential to lower health insurance costs.”

Thanks to Trump, she said, taxpayers will need to pay more and middle-income families will be hit the hardest.

“What is he thinking? Yesterday’s executive order also — earlier in the day — seeks to raise premiums on Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. Sorry, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you better be very, very rich,” she said.

Some of the backlash to the announcement came from Republicans. For instance, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who’s been a vocal critic of Trump’s policies on transgender issues, said the president’s decision would accomplish the opposite of what he had promised.

Early Friday morning, Trump defended the decision on Twitter. He mocked Democrats by urging them to call him so he could “fix” the supposedly “imploding” 2010 law now that he’s slashed subsidies to the Democrats’ “pet insurance companies.” He also vowed to continue dismantling Obamacare “piece by piece.”

The White House had pushed for Congress to dismantle Obamacare, but repeatedly fell short of securing enough Republican votes in the Senate.

And the backlash continued after Trump’s tweets. The general consensus among critics was that his latest action was designed to undermine Obamacare, so he won’t be able to claim in the future that it collapsed on its own.

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