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Trump Says Health Care Order Will Allow More Insurance Options

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that is intended to lower costs, but critics warn it could hurt those who need insurance most

President Donald Trump hands a pen that he used to sign an executive order on health care to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday.

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that’s 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 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.”

Trump described his action as a response to reduced insurance offerings and rising premiums in Obamacare’s individual market.

Critics complain the president’s move could make matters worse — offering a cheaper option for younger, healthier insurance customers but driving up prices for those who need coverage most.

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.

Broader access to so-called association health plans, or AHPs, is an idea that’s been promoted by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

“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.”

State regulators and some insurance companies warn that association plans might cherry-pick the healthiest customers, offering discounted insurance to those who don’t use a lot of medical care but driving up costs for others. Administration officials downplayed that concern, noting that association plans must offer coverage to any employee in a participating group.

The president’s order also calls for expanding access to short-term insurance policies, which are not subject to some of Obamacare’s coverage requirements. And it directs the Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury departments to make it easier for employers to offer tax-free reimbursement to employees to help cover deductibles, copayments and other health care expenses.

All of the changes will be subject to a formal rule-making process, including a public comment period. Administration officials said any new insurance offerings would come in months, not weeks.

Trump said Thursday’s order is not a substitute for congressional action and he vowed to continue to press lawmakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“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 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’s slashed spending on marketing efforts to bring more customers into the exchanges.

11 a.m.

President Donald Trump predicts “millions and millions of people” will benefit from his action to unwind the health care law.

He’s signed an executive order to make lower-premium plans more widely available.

But the changes Trump hopes to bring about could take months or even longer. That’s according to administration officials who outlined the order for reporters Thursday morning. The proposals may not be finalized in time to affect coverage for 2019, let alone next year.

White House domestic policy director Andrew Bremberg said that Trump still believes Congress needs to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. The White House described the order as first steps.

Trump signed the order in the White House’s Roosevelt Room surrounded by Vice President Mike Pence, members of his Cabinet and Congress.

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10:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that aims to make lower-premium health care plans available to more Americans.

The president says the order 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.

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2:38 a.m.

President Donald Trump has made no secret he’s frustrated with the failure of Congress to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

Now Trump will try to put his own stamp on health care with an executive order that aims to make lower-premium insurance plans available to more consumers. He will unveil his plan Thursday.

Administration officials say it will let groups and associations sponsor coverage that can be marketed across the land, reflecting Trump’s longstanding belief that interstate competition will lead to lower premiums.

Trump’s move 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.

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