President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that is intended to provide more options for people shopping for health insurance. The president invoked his power of the pen after repeated Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, have failed.
"The competition will be staggering," Trump said. "Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up. And you will be, hopefully, negotiating, negotiating, negotiating. And you will get such low prices for such great care."
The order directs the Labor Department to make it easier for groups of employers to band together for the purpose of offering insurance. In some cases, groups might purchase coverage across state lines — a move that Republicans have long advocated as a way to lower costs.Trump described his action as a response to reduced insurance offerings and rising premiums in Obamacare's individual market.Broader access to so-called association health plans, or AHPs, is an idea that has been promoted by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
"Today is only the beginning," Trump said. "In the coming months, we plan to take new measures to provide our people with even more relief and more freedom."Critics argue that the Trump administration has deliberately tried to sabotage the Obamacare exchanges. Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold cost-sharing subsidies from insurance companies, and he has slashed spending on marketing efforts to bring more customers into the exchanges.
Rand Paul Meets Trump
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has a complicated history with President Donald Trump — including attacks lobbed at each other as candidates in the Republican primary and Paul's opposition a White House-backed healthcare bill in September.
On Thursday, the two crossed paths during a signing ceremony for Trump's executive order to unwind parts of the Affordable Care Act, an effort on which Paul and the White House collaborated.Paul didn't exactly look comfortable.
The video of his reaction quickly made the rounds on social media and had even been memorialized in a Twitter Moment on Thursday afternoon.In the video, Paul offers a few perfunctory claps as Trump greets the audience and begins shaking hands.
Though many of the people in the room are smiling, Paul appears stone-faced. He quickly folds his hands together and looks down, shifting his eyes left and right, apparently the only person in the frame whose eyes are not on Trump as the pleasantries continue around him. Noticeably, he never shakes Trump's hand.
"I can say, when you get Rand Paul on your side, it has to be positive, that I can tell you," Trump said, drawing laughter from the room. "I was just saying as he's getting up and saying all these wonderful things about what we're going to be announcing, I said, boy, that's pretty unusual. I'm very impressed."
Winners and Losers
"President Trump is doing what I believe is the biggest free-market reform of health care in a generation," Paul said during a signing ceremony in the White House Roosevelt Room. "This reform, if it works and goes as planned, will allow millions of people to get insurance across state lines at an inexpensive price."
Trump's action will create winners and losers.
Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the National Restaurant Association favor the move.
Among consumers, the losers include those with pre-existing conditions. The winners include the young and the healthy.
Those on Medicare may not care at all.
Your view likely depends on which group you are in. One thing is certain, the losers will howl loudly.
Death of Obamacare is Certain
Whatever your view, this action will not fix remaining problems in Obamacare.
The death of Obamacare is certain. It remains to be seen what will eventually replace the current system.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock