President Trump signed an executive memorandum that instructs the Department of Health and Human Services Director to modernize the regulations overseeing the creation of association health plans.
The current regulations bar small businesses from banding together to create these plans, which hampers competition and directs people to purchase their insurance from the exchanges.
This was a body blow to an already failing Obamacare System. Unfortunately, it looks like he didn’t go as far as he was originally signaling and only expanded the ability to form association health plans to small businesses and not to all individuals.
Democrats predictably have been screaming like crazy cat ladies on Twitter all day. Under the leadership of Senator Schumer and his colleagues, the Democrats have led with the word “sabotage” all day.
Critics, who include state insurance commissioners, most of the health-insurance industry and mainstream policy specialists, predict that a proliferation of these other kinds of coverage will have damaging ripple effects, driving up costs for consumers with serious medical conditions and prompting more insurers to flee the law’s marketplaces. Part of Trump’s action, they say, will spark court challenges over its legality.
The most far-reaching element of the order instructs a trio of Cabinet departments to rewrite federal rules for “association health plans” – a form of insurance in which small businesses of a similar type band together through an association to negotiate health benefits. These plans have had to meet coverage requirements and consumer protections under the 2010 health-care law, but the administration is likely to exempt them from those rules and let such plans be sold from state to state without insurance licenses in each one.
In addition, the order is designed to expand the availability of short-term insurance policies, which offer limited benefits as a bridge for people between jobs or young adults no longer eligible for their parents’ health plans. The Obama administration ruled that short-term insurance may not last for more than three months; Trump wants to extend that to nearly a year.
Trump’s action also is intended to widen employers’ ability to use pretax dollars in “health reimbursement arrangements” to help workers pay for any medical expenses, not just for health policies that meet ACA rules – another reversal of Obama policy.
He also signed late last night an executive order that ended the illegal use of funds for subsidizing the cost of purchasing health insurance plans. A judge already ruled it to be illegal under the Obama administration, and now President Trump has killed it.
Of course the attorney generals of California and other like minded states have already signaled that they will be taking the Trump administration to court over the latest executive order.
It will be very difficult for any judge to try and justify forcing the administration to spend funds not appropriated by Congress. Even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may have some difficulty in twisting the law to support the Democrat vision.
President Trump would be well within his rights to absolutely refuse to abide by any court that seeks to force him to continue an illegal and blatantly unconstitutional act.