President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday striking a unilateral blow against Obamacare after the Republican-controlled Congress repeatedly failed to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Trump’s executive order directs his administration to begin formulating an approach to allow small businesses to join together across state lines to purchase coverage through what are known as Association Health Plans (AHPs). The executive order also expands access to short term coverage plans that don’t comply with Obamacare requirements.
The Trump administration and Congressional allies like conservative Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are selling the executive order as “the first step” to increased consumer choice and cheaper coverage costs.
“This is a first step to make it easier for employees to help their workers. With these actions we’re moving toward lower costs and more options in the health care market,” Trump said during a White House event Thursday attended by small business owners.
Opponents of the executive order argue that it will hurt the elderly and sick as younger, healthier Americans leave Obamacare risk pools to purchase cheaper, less comprehensive coverage.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the move, arguing that it was a cynical, politically motivated attempt to “sabotage” Obamacare.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 12, 2017
“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. “It’s not going to solve the problem at all and remember, it effects a very small number of people.”
“It won’t do anything for a lot of the people on the exchange who are not members of franchises or trade associations,” Emanuel said. “So this is more show than actual reality in terms of making health care affordable for Americans.”
While AHPs already exist, the executive order empowers federal agencies to remove state and federal restrictions on the coverage groups. The elimination of restrictions could allow small businesses that purchase coverage through AHPs to be regulated like large employers, which are not subject to many of the coverage requirements under Obamacare.
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