Trump’s first steps to unwind Obamacare
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order today to initiate the unwinding of the Affordable Care Act, paving the way for sweeping changes to Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reforms by instructing agencies to allow the sale of less comprehensive health plans to expand.
The US President, using his authority to accomplish some of the goals Republicans failed to achieve with their stalled congressional healthcare overhaul, will direct federal agencies to take actions aimed at providing lowercost options and fostering competition in the individual insurance markets, two senior White House officials said.
By boosting alternative insurance arrangements that would be exempt from some key ACA rules, the change would offer more options for consumers.
However, health-insurance experts say the changes could raise costs for sicker people by drawing healthier, younger consumers to these alternative plans, which could be less expensive and offer fewer benefits.
The order will aim to expand access to plans that allow small businesses and possibly individuals band together to buy insurance. It will also lift limits on the sale of short-term insurance, which provides limited coverage that often appeals to healthier people. And it will seek to expand the ways in which workers can use employer-funded accounts to buy their own insurance policies.
But the instructions will amount to a reversal of the broad approach of the Obama legislation, which seeks to guarantee insurance policies offer a minimum level of benefits to all consumers regardless of their medical history.
Mr Trump and other Republicans argue such rules must be relaxed to bring down premiums, especially for healthier people who have seen costs rise.
The ACA, also known as Obamacare, made sweeping changes to health-insurance pricing that made insurance accessible for lower income and sicker Americans, but also resulted in market turbulence and higher premiums, in particular for healthier and middle-income people.
Republicans’ efforts to repeal the ACA collapsed in congress last month, and Mr Trump was openly displeased at GOP leaders’ failure.
The move on Obamacare came as Mr Trump aso suggested he would challenge licences for broadcast news networks, following reports by NBC News that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called the President a “moron”.
“With all of the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their licence? Bad for country!” Mr Trump tweeted.
Mr Trump and his supporters have repeatedly used the term “fake news” to cast doubt on media reports critical of his administration, often with no evidence to support such claims.
Mr Trump kept up his criticism of the media in an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying: “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”
In a tweet later, Mr Trump said: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licences must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”
NBC News has reported on tensions between Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson, and has said the President sought a dramatic increase in the US nuclear arsenal during a meeting with national security advisers in July. NBC said Mr Tillerson made his “moron” comment after that meeting.
Mr Trump also spent yesterday pitching his tax plan as a boost for truckers at an event in Pennsylvania, saying: “America first means putting American truckers first.”
Mr Trump appeared before about 1000 cheering people at a plane hangar draped with US flags. Two big rigs were in the background.
“It will be rocket fuel for our economy,” Mr Trump said of a plan that would dramatically cut corporate tax rates from 35 per cent to 20 per cent, reduce the number of personal income tax brackets and boost the standard deduction.
Mr Trump said a cut to business taxes would help truckers because there will be “more products to deliver and more contracts to fill”.
Donald and Melania Trump await the arrival of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire at the White House yesterday