Trump signs order to thwart health program
WASHINGTON — President 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.
But most of the changes will not come until federal agencies adopt regulations, after an opportunity for public comments — a process that could take months.
The order resulted from Trump’s frustration with his inability to persuade a Republican-controlled Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a pillar of President Barack Obama’s legacy. Supporters of the current health law called the order “sabotage,” a way to destroy the ACA without winning a majority in Congress.
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.
Short-term policies could be particularly useful to people in counties where only a single insurer is offering plans in the ACA marketplace, the White House said. But short-term policies can limit benefits and charge higher premiums to people who have expensive medical conditions, a type of discrimination banned in policies regulated under the ACA.
Many of the new insurance products could be exempt from requirements of the ACA that Republicans say have contributed to sharp increases in premiums but that supporters say have created a baseline of care that has protected consumers from “junk insurance.”
Administration officials said they had not yet decided which federal and state rules would apply to the new products.
Trump’s order could eventually make it easier for small businesses to band together and buy insurance through new entities known as association health plans, which could be created by business and professional groups. A White House official said these health plans “could potentially allow American employers to form groups across state lines” — a goal championed by Trump and many other Republicans.
The action Thursday followed the pattern of previous policy shifts that originated with similar directives from the president. Within hours of his inauguration in January, Trump ordered federal agencies to find ways to waive or defer any provisions of the ACA that might burden consumers, insurers or health care providers. In May, he directed officials to help people with religious objections to the federal mandate for insurance coverage of contraception.
Both of those orders were followed up with specific, substantive regulations.
President Trump signs an executive order that clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance.