The White House announced Thursday that President Trump is taking executive action on health care as Congress stalls on efforts to overhaul ObamaCare, calling for a plan that could let employers band together and offer coverage across state lines.
An executive order Trump plans to sign Thursday morning aims to offer “alternatives” to ObamaCare plans and increase competition to bring down costs.
“The time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines, which will create a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring costs way down and provide far better care,” Trump said in a statement.
According to officials, Trump will direct the secretary of labor to consider expanding access to Association Health Plans, which could allow employers to form groups across state lines offering coverage. According to the White House, these plans could offer lower rates.
Those “association health plans” could be shielded from some state and federal insurance requirements. But responding to concerns, the White House said participating employers could not exclude any workers from the plan, or charge more to those in poor health.
The order also calls on other federal agencies to consider expanding coverage in low-cost, short-term insurance plans not subject to ObamaCare rules.
It’s unlikely to reverse the trend of insurers exiting state markets. About half of U.S. counties will have only one ObamaCare insurer next year, although it appears that no counties will be left without a carrier as was initially feared.
The move comes after congressional Republicans repeatedly have been unable to pass legislation repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act, which critics say has led to rising premiums and diminishing coverage options – in some cases forcing consumers to lose their previous plans and doctors. Trump’s executive order could clear the way for cheaper, more bare-bones insurance policies.
Trump’s order is likely to encounter opposition from medical associations, consumer groups and even insurers — the same coalition that has blocked congressional Republicans. They say it would raise costs for the sick, while the lower-premium coverage for healthy people would come with significant gaps.
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.
White House domestic policy director Andrew Bremberg told reporters during a conference call Thursday that the executive order is necessary because ObamaCare has caused “costs to skyrocket.”
Bremberg acknowledged Trump’s order could affect tens of millions of Americans and said the administration also intends to take “additional actions” on health care in the months to come.
The administration is hopeful these actions could be implemented within six months, a senior administration official said, but it could take longer to finalize.
Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn and Serafin Gomez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.