Donald Trump signs executive order to side-step Obamacare rules

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

To bypass infighting within the Republican Party, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday meant to cripple the Affordable Care Act and rewrite the health insurance playbook.

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. Obamacare rules would not apply to these plans, meaning they can drop coverage for things like maternity care, mental health services and prescription drugs. The order is the first official step in overhauling major federal regulations while encouraging cheaper, loosely regulated health insurance plans.

Trump said the order was "only the beginning" and that his administration would take additional actions.

Administration officials say 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.

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Standing alongside Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who worked with Trump to write the order, along with VP Mike Pence and several small business owners, Trump said that Obamacare had been "rammed" through, and that it has not worked as planned.

The Trump administration rule also eliminates restrictions on short-term health insurance plans, which offer limited benefits and are intended as a stopgap between jobs.

Trump signed an executive order aimed at letting small businesses band together across state lines to buy cheaper, less regulated health plans for their employees with fewer benefits. He said he would "pressure Congress very strongly to finish the repeal and the replace of Obamacare once and for all".

Association plans could take longer to roll out, since the federal government will have to iron out regulations regarding them. Health plans would be unlikely to be able to substantially cut costs because employers from regions with lower healthcare costs, like Iowa, would not want to join up with those from regions with higher healthcare costs, Antos said. Regardless, it puts the health of millions of Americans at risk.

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"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. Health experts told BuzzFeed News that Paul's broader plan was akin to "repealing the ACA without Congress". The action could open Trump to legal challenges from Democratic state attorneys general, who have said they will sue Trump if he tries to destroy Obamacare. "We're heading in a different direction". That reflects Trump's longstanding belief that interstate competition will lead to lower premiums for consumers who buy their own health insurance policies, as well as for small businesses.

"I don't know that it accomplishes all that much" in the short-term, said Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading health-care policy research group, when asked about the impact of the order.

Trump's latest executive order, like his previous moves, seems motivated more by frustration at Congress's inability to repeal Obamacare than by any concern for the smooth functioning of the individual health-insurance market.

Hospital stocks edged lower in Thursday trading, with HCA Healthcare down 1.4 percent and Tenet Healthcare down 2.3 percent. He has not committed to making billions of dollars of payments to insurers guaranteed under Obamacare, prompting many to exit the individual market or hike premiums for 2018.

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