In summary

California seeks a temporary restraining order against the Trump administration to force it to keep paying health care subsidies it slashed last week.

California requested a temporary restraining order today against the Trump administration, to ensure it continues to pay the health care subsidies it slashed last week while a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 18 other attorneys general and the District of Columbia winds its way through the justice system.

Announcing the move, Becerra said if his request is granted the federal government would have to continue to make cost-sharing payments that help low and middle-income individuals afford health care through the Affordable Care Act.

“These payments must be made,” said Becerra, who was in Congress when the Affordable Care Act passed. “We are going to fight to make sure the presidents doesn’t pick and choose which laws he’s going to follow.”

Healthcare experts say cutting subsidies weakens the health care law and opens the door for higher premiums and for some insurers to close in certain markets.

In California, consumers would not see such effects for some time. The state’s insurance exchange, called Covered California, developed rates for 2018 on the assumption that the subsidies might disappear and asked providers to add a surcharge to certain plans to cover the uncertainty.

But in 2019 Californians could see significant increases in premiums and care costs if the subsidies do not resume. Rates for 2019 have not yet been set.

About 670,000 people in California receive significant discounts on premiums, deductibles and co-pays due to the federal subsidies, said Tam Ma, a director for Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group. She said those who qualify for the aid are working, earning up to $29,000 annually for an individual and up to $61,000 for a family of four.

“Discounts allow families to have financial stability,” she said.

Last week, the Trump administration said it would stop paying the subsidies, arguing they were illegal because Congress did not approve them.

Covered California is gearing up to begin open enrollment Nov. 1.

But “for too many people,” Becerra said, “it’s a decision between paying rent or paying medical bills.”

Today’s action follows a lawsuit that Becerra and the other attorneys general filed against the Trump administration Friday for cutting the subsidies.

“I and many of my attorney-general colleagues will fight vigorously to ensure Californians and all Americans as taxpayers receive the healthcare the law provides,” Becerra said Friday.

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Elizabeth Aguilera

Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers health and social services for CalMatters. She joined CalMatters in 2016 from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she...