Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday added to the uncertainty over whether insurers will receive critical payments from the Trump administration, saying that he doubts the payments are constitutional.
Sessions said during a Fox News interview that the payments to insurers, which reimburse them for lowering the cost of copays and deductibles for low-income Obamacare customers and are the subject of a House lawsuit, should be appropriated by Congress.
Sessions' comments come as insurers are concerned whether the Trump administration will continue to reimburse them for the cost-sharing reductions.
Insurers are required under federal law to provide the reductions for Obamacare and have been getting reimbursed by the federal government. They are expected to receive $7 billion this year.
But Sessions said a lawsuit filed by the House against the Obama administration in 2014 "has validity to it."
The lawsuit argues that the Obama administration illegally bypassed Congress and didn't get an appropriation for the payments.
The Obama administration appealed a decision by a federal judge who sided with the House, but it is not known if Trump will continue that appeal.
Sessions said the "legal process will continue."
The Trump administration has said that it will continue to hand out the payments while the lawsuit is being litigated. A status report on the lawsuit is due May 22.
Meanwhile, insurers will want to know if they will be reimbursed next year since they have to let the federal government know about their 2018 rates by June.
The main insurance industry group, America's Health Insurance Plans, met with Seema Verma, the new head of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this week. The group didn't receive a commitment that the cost-sharing payments would be given out in 2018.