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President Trump Begins Obamacare Dismantling With Executive Order

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took his first steps Thursday toward fulfilling his vow to dismantle Obamacare, signing an executive order that he says will bring affordable health insurance to millions more people.

The order broadly tasks the administration with developing policies to increase health care competition and choice in order to improve the quality of health care and lower prices.

However, it could also destabilize Obamacare by siphoning out younger and healthier Americans from the exchanges.

The order, Trump said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, would give “millions of Americans with Obamacare relief.” It would “cost the United States government virtually nothing and people will have great great health care. And when I say people, I mean by the millions and millions.”

Trump said the measures “should have been done a long time ago, and could have been done a long time ago.”

Specifically, the President is directing the Labor Department to study how to make it easier for small businesses, and possibly individuals, to join together and buy health insurance through nationwide association health plans, a senior administration official said Thursday. The department could give employers in the same industries more flexibility to offer group coverage across state lines, providing them with a broader range of policies at lower rates.

Separately, the order would allow consumers to buy short-term policies, which don’t have to comply with Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Also, it looks to broaden the ability of employers to give workers money to buy their own coverage through health reimbursement arrangements.

The changes could take six months or more to take effect, a senior administration official said.

Critics, however, worry that the order may free these association health plans from several key Obamacare regulations and from state oversight, allowing them to sell plans with lower premiums but skimpier benefits. That could draw younger and healthier customers away from Obamacare and send premiums skyrocketing for sicker people left in the exchanges.

Still needs Congress

Though Congress has shelved its effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, a signature campaign promise for the President, Trump has not let it go. While he cannot wipe away the health reform law with the stroke of a pen, Trump — who often blasted former President Barack Obama for using executive orders — can use those orders to direct agencies to amend guidance and regulations to broaden how the law is implemented.

His plan announced Thursday has drawn backing from lawmakers like Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who has identified specific reforms that could be made by the President alone. Paul, who also criticized Obama on executive orders, was among those present for the signing.

Trump’s efforts with congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have floundered after analyses of the GOP replacement plans showed the number of Americans without insurance would increase by more than 20 million people, as compared to current law.

Democrats railed against Trump’s move, saying it would hurt the current health care markets.

“Having failed to repeal the #ACA in Congress, @POTUS is using a wrecking ball to singlehandedly rip apart & sabotage our healthcare system,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, tweeted.

“This is a case where doing something is worse than doing nothing,” Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and one of the architects of Obamacare, said on CNN. “It’s not going to solve the problem at all and remember, it effects a very small number of people.”

“It won’t do anything for a lot of the people on the exchange who are not members of franchises or trade associations,” Emanuel said. “So this is more show than actual reality in terms of making health care affordable for Americans.”

What the order may do

Exactly how the agencies would change current regulations remains to be seen.

Association health plans, which are usually sponsored by trade organizations or interest groups, already exist. Spurred by the executive order, federal agencies could amend the rules governing these plans so they are no longer subject to state regulation, said health policy experts, speaking before the order was issued. Instead, the nationwide plans may come under the same federal oversight as large-employer policies.

Large group plans do not have to adhere to all of Obamacare’s provisions, such as the requirement to provide comprehensive policies that cover prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse, according to Kevin Lucia, project director at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.

The switch could also allow association plans to deny coverage to the group or set rates based on the medical history of those in the group, so plans with younger, healthier members could offer lower premiums. The administration said that employers participating in these plans would not be allowed to exclude employees or develop premiums based on health conditions.

The President’s action also looks to expand the use of short-term insurance plans. These policies are also not subject to Obamacare regulations so they can exclude those with pre-existing conditions or base rates on consumers’ health background. Also, they usually offer less comprehensive coverage.

The Obama administration limited these plans’ coverage to 90 days. Previously, they had been available for up to a year.

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17 comments

  • Lord Chesterfield

    Has anybody actually been following this issue? The majority of the comments I’ve read vs. the context of the article reflect a lack of understanding of what is going on in Washington. What our government has signed into law, under whatever administration, requires people to purchased prepackaged policies. The wisdom of the policies is debatable however the current (ACA) healthcare construct requires financial support from a group of people that don’t give a chit about health care or earn enough to participate. Those healthy young persons under the influence of recently secreted hormones are on a fantasy ride that makes a free weekend in Disneyland (including airfare) seem like a boring idea. What this executive order allows is private insurance companies to offer a variety of health care plans that more accurately reflect the needs of the person purchasing the plans and does not limit the company to being present in the state where it is offered. The idea is competition. More choices the lower the cost. Will it work, I think so. Problems? Yes! The biggest problem that remains is how to cover persons with preexisting conditions with affordable solutions. This is where ,in my opinion, the government will need to intervene. Besides covering preexisting conditions the other paradox left that is of concern is how to prevent people that want the same result from being so divided. But, I choose not to digress.

    • sam I am

      I have been following it since the ACA passed I’ve watched my premiums skyrocket because of it…I think most of the people commenting negatively about Trumps idea, really don’t have a clue. letting insurance company’s sell over state lines will create competition breaking the monopoly’s the insurance industry’s have in their territories..

    • Silverfish Imperetrix

      Seeing as how all of the Democrats and a good 3/4 of the “Republicans” are against him, it’s the President just doing what needs to be done to start dismantling the monstrosity known as Obamacare. It’s a wealth redistribution scheme and nothing more.

  • Mike

    This reminds me of the wife who was tired of waiting for her husband to remodel the kitchen so she took a sledge hammer and pounded holes through the walls. They lived with that wrecked kitchen for another three years until they could afford someone who knew how to fix it. Cost them a lot more but in the long run she got what she wanted.

  • magicmikexxsm

    Thank President Trump, why as a guy buying my own policy do I have to pay for prenatal care, pediatric care for babies, and a lot more stuff in my policy that I will never ever use???? I should be able to buy a cheaper policy with out all the extras in it…..
    If Trump came out in favor of oxygen, Democrats would suffocate themselves opposing it….lol

      • magicmikexxsm

        NOT DONALD, lol you probably get the biggest tax credit from the feds to buy your insurance, that’s why you are all upset about obamataxcare going away….. here’s and Idea buy your own, with your own money…slouch .

      • magicmikexxsm

        I understand it perfectly fine.the DNC passed a bill forcing everyone to buy something that they should have never ever passed..it’s called a form of socialism…..

    • Carl Brutananadilewski

      Cool, I don’t want to pay for your social security. But I do.

      “If Trump came out in favor of oxygen, Democrats would suffocate themselves opposing it….lol”

      Here’s a fun game, switch Trump with Obama and Democrats with Republicans. Same results.

      • magicmikexxsm

        Carl, SS is totally different..the minuscule amount you pay into you will get back out if you live long enough.
        it’s not costing you $500, 600 and up a month like this dismal obamataxcare bill is, you and the other 3 goofs that responded I would have not expected anything less from a liberal.
        Like I said before “If Trump came out in favor of oxygen, Democrats would suffocate themselves opposing it….