SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge in San Francisco refused Wednesday to block President Donald Trump's order to end government subsidies required by the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, an Obama appointee, said Trump's action would create little harm because most states anticipated it and established measures to keep premiums stable.
Chhabria also said that Trump's action also may not have violated the law.
"Although the case is at an early stage, and although it's a close question, it appears initially that the Trump administration has the stronger legal argument," Chhabria wrote.
Trump said earlier this month that his administration would stop making monthly payments to insurers that reimburse them for reducing out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-pays, for lower income Americans. The next federal payment to insurance companies was due on Friday.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia sued, asking Chhabria to put a hold on Trump's order and warning it would trigger "chaos and uncertainty," raise the cost of insurance and the number of uninsured Americans and saddle state and local government with hefty, new expenses.
But Chhabria said Trump's decision to discontinue the payments would have little immediate effect because consumers will receive higher tax credits to make up for increased premiums charged for some plans.
A bipartisan deal reached last week by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., would reinstate the payments for the next two years, but prospects remain uncertain for passage of that legislation.
Many conservative Republicans have opposed the legislation, saying that Congress should take no action to fix Obamacare, which they want to repeal.
Other Republicans have supported the compromise move, in part because the people most likely to be hurt by cutting off the insurance payments are a largely Republican constituency -- middle- and upper-income working people who do not get insurance coverage from an employer.