Trump signs executive order to weaken Obamacare

Cheryl Sanders
October 12, 2017

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act. "And when I say people, I mean by the millions and millions".

He said people would be able to buy plans from "many, many competitors", which he implied would drive down prices.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who voted against several congressional bills for Obamacare repeal for not going far enough, attended the signing and called it the "biggest free-market reform of health care in a generation".

Trump says the order that allows people to buy insurance across state lines and opens the way to joining association plans - those that allows small business to band together for plans - that will give people more options and cost the government "virtually nothing".

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

Mr Trump said the White House was "starting the process" of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, in announcing the executive order at a news conference on Thursday. However, after Trump finished his remarks, he apparently forgot that he actually had to sign the order at his executive order signing, and made for the door.

"You'll get such low prices for such great care", he said.

Trump described his action as a response to reduced insurance offerings and rising premiums in Obamacare's individual market.

Stymied in Congress by the failure of Senate Republicans to pass legislation to dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, Trump's order marks his administration's latest effort to undermine the law without action by lawmakers. Instead, the nationwide plans would be subject to the same federal oversight as large-employer policies.

The order also loosens restrictions on "short-term" health insurance plans that were created to offer temporary coverage for people who are between jobs, for example.

Administration officials one of the main ideas is to ease the way for groups and associations of employers to sponsor coverage that can be marketed across the land.

Trump also directed the secretaries of the Treasury, labor and health and human services to find ways of expanding access to "short-term limited duration insurance".

But consumer groups and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, representing state officials, have opposed association health plans because they could be largely exempt from state regulation. 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.

Trump directed three Cabinet agencies to develop rules that would expand access to less expensive, less comprehensive insurance, including policies that could be sold by trade associations to their members and short-term medical coverage that could be offered by commercial insurers to individuals and families. Previously, they had been available for up to a year.

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