Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trump signs executive order aims to boost lower-premium health insurance plans

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by failures in Congress, President Donald Trump will try to put his own stamp on health care with an executive order Thursday that aims to make lower-premium plans more widely available.

But the president's move is likely to encounter opposition from medical associations, consumer groups and perhaps even some insurers — the same coalition that so far has blocked congressional Republicans from repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Critics say the White House approach would raise costs for the sick, while the lower-premium coverage provided to healthy people would come with significant gaps.

Trump signed the order, saying it will provide what he calls "Obamacare relief" for millions of Americans.

Trump is relying on the executive order because the Republican-controlled Congress has been unable to pass a plan to repeal and replace the Obama-era health care law.

Trump says the health care system "will get better" with his action, and the action will cost the federal government nothing.

The president says he still wants Congress repeal and replace the Obama health care law. But his says his order will give people more competition, more choices and lower premiums.

Administration officials say one of the main ideas is to ease the way for groups and associations to sponsor coverage that can be marketed across the land, reflecting 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.

Those "association health plans" could be shielded from state and federal requirements such as mandates for coverage of certain standard benefits, equal pricing regardless of a customer's health status, and no dollar limits on how much the insurer would pay out.

Other elements of the White House proposal may include:

• Easing current restrictions on short-term policies that last less than a year, an option for people making a life transition, from recent college graduates to early retirees.

• Allowing employers to set aside pre-tax dollars so workers can use the money to buy an individual health policy.

Democrats are bracing for another effort by Trump to dismantle "Obamacare," this time relying on the rule-making powers of the executive branch. Staffers at the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury have been working on the options since shortly after the president took office.

But as Trump himself once said, health care is complicated and working his will won't be as easy as signing a presidential order. Some parts of the plan will have to go through the agency rule-making process, which involves notice and comment, and can take months. State attorneys general and state insurance regulators may try to block the White House in court, seeing the plan as a challenge to their traditional authority.

Experts say Trump's plan probably wouldn't have much impact on premiums for 2018, which are expected to be sharply higher in many states for people buying their own policies.

Sponsors would have to be found to offer and market the new style association plans, and insurers would have to step up to design and administer them. For insurers, this would come at a time when much of the industry seems to have embraced the consumer protections required by the Obama health law.

Depending on the scope of the order, some experts say the new plans created by the White House would draw healthy people away from "Obamacare" insurance markets, making them less viable for consumers and insurers alike. This could start happening as early as 2019. Premiums for those in the health law's markets would keep rising, and so would taxpayer costs for subsidizing coverage.

"If the order is as expansive as it sounds, association plans could create insurance products that would siphon off healthy people with lower premiums and skinnier benefits, leading more insurers to exit the ACA marketplace or raise premiums significantly," Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said recently.

"Healthy middle-class people not now eligible for subsidies could get cheaper insurance, but people with pre-existing conditions could be priced out of the market altogether," he added.

Nonetheless conservatives such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., believe the federal government has overstepped its bounds in regulating the private health insurance market. They argue that loosening federal rules would allow insurers to design plans that — although they may not cover as much — work perfectly well for many people.

About 17 million people now buy individual health insurance policies.

Nearly 9 million consumers receive tax credits under the Affordable Care Act and are protected from higher premiums.

But those who get no subsidies are exposed to the full brunt of cost increases that could reach well into the double digits in many states next year.

Many in this latter group are solid middle-class, including self-employed business people and early retirees. Cutting their premiums has been a longstanding political promise for Republicans.

 

President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during an event at the Harrisburg International Airport, Wednesday Oct. 11, 2017, in Middletown, Pa. [Associated Press]

President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during an event at the Harrisburg International Airport, Wednesday Oct. 11, 2017, in Middletown, Pa. [Associated Press]

Trump signs executive order aims to boost lower-premium health insurance plans 10/12/17 [Last modified: Thursday, October 12, 2017 12:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

    Nation

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  2. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  3. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings

    Crime

    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  5. Funeral starts for soldier at center of Trump fight

    Military

    COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102