Frustrated by stalled Republican efforts to roll back Obamacare, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order chipping away at his predecessor’s signature healthcare law, which extended insurance to 20 million Americans.
Trump unveiled plans on Thursday (Oct. 12) to allow small businesses and individuals to buy health insurance that does not meet the minimum Obamacare requirements.
“Seven years ago, congressional Democrats broke the American health care system by forcing the Obamacare nightmare onto the American people. And it has been a nightmare,” Trump said at a signing ceremony at the White House.
He said the order represented the first step “to providing millions of Americans with Obamacare relief.”
Trump said the changes will increase choices in buying health insurance, allow associations to band together to buy policies across state lines, and lower prices by allowing short-term health policies with fewer covered benefits.
But critics say it will only drive prices up, hurting older Americans, or those with medical conditions.
The executive order directs agencies to review and write rules for the changes he proposes, but it could be challenged in court by opponents who question whether the president actually has the legal authority to make the changes.
“Sabotage” of the Affordable Care Act
The Trump plan would allow insurance companies and unregulated associations to sell cheaper policies that offer less coverage than Obamacare currently requires – potentially no longer requiring maternity or substance abuse coverage.
Americans could also buy short-term coverage for longer periods, between jobs, while insurers could charge groups and businesses with sicker employees more than others.
Those set to benefit from the reform are healthier Americans with no children, who are not earning a lot of money. For them, a bare-bones insurance policy would be cheaper every month, but come with higher out-of-pocket health expenses when they get sick.
Those set to lose out are older Americans with higher medical expenses.
Some small business groups have applauded the plan, while many state insurance regulators and healthcare providers warned it will only drive costs higher: with fewer, healthy young people in the insurance pool, everyone else could pay more.
“What we’ve got going on here is a shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic I think. It can help some people but at the direct cost of others who are left behind,” said Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi called the plan “a sabotage of the Affordable Care Act.”