After a summer of failed health care reform bills in Congress, the White House announced Thursday that President Donald Trump is taking executive action in an effort to provide more “alternatives” to health insurance.
Trump is signing an executive order that would help people to purchase insurance across state lines, among other changes. The order is seen by critics as an attempt to undermine ObamaCare, a key component of his predecessor’s legacy. But the White House contends it will help expand access and lower costs.
What does the order do?
The plan requests the secretary of labor to expand access to “association health plans” – plans written by trade associations, small businesses and other groups. It allows consumers to go across state lines to purchase insurance that could be more affordable or tailored to a person’s needs.
“We’re going to have great health care across state lines,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday night. “People can buy it. It will cost the government nothing.”
The relaxed restrictions could allow AHPs to form through existing organizations or the creation of new groups, according to the White House. However, it wouldn’t allow these plans to base premiums off of pre-existing conditions.
The order also requests the easing of restrictions on short-term insurance policies – which aren’t subject to ObamaCare regulations.
What do supporters say?
Proponents of these plans, like Trump, argue that it will drive down costs with competition.
Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky, said Wednesday that he supports AHPs. He also teased the upcoming executive order earlier this week in a tweet that called it “a great plan” and “a big deal for millions of Americans.”
He said that he’s worked with Trump for months on the plan.
What’s the impact on ObamaCare?
The plan is likely to be opposed by the same coalition of medical groups and even some insurers that advocated against congressional Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Critics have argued that the plan will ultimately raise costs for the sick while the lower-premium coverage provided to healthy people would come with significant gaps.
Cori Uccello, a senior health fellow for the American Academy of Actuaries, told Fox News that an issue with AHPs is regulation.
“There’s uncertainty of who is going to have oversight in terms of consumer protection. What redress does a consumer have, appeals processes, those kinds of things,” she said.
Uccello also said that expanding AHPs and increasing short-term insurance policies could be detrimental to the current insurance market that complies with ObamaCare regulations. Healthy people could leave the market, turning it into a high-risk pool, she said.
“If a goal is to provide protections for people with preexisting conditions, this is a step in the wrong direction,” Uccello said.
In a series of tweets, Larry Levitt, of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, argued that the executive order could “severely destabilize the individual and small business insurance markets.”
“How far this executive order really goes and how much it’s able to undermine the [Affordable Care Act] depends a lot on details that will be in regulations to come,” Levitt told Fox News. “The intent of the executive order is clearly to deregulate the insurance market, but it’s unclear yet how successful it will be.”
What happens next?
Don’t expect to notice a difference in the insurance market immediately; parts of the plan will have to go through the arduous agency rule-making process, which could take months, according to The Associated Press. And experts have said that the order probably won’t greatly impact premiums for 2018 – which are already expected to rise.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.