President Trump on Thursday morning is signing an executive order that will direct various agencies to “provide relief” to overcharged Obamacare customers, but the process will not be complete in time for open enrollment beginning Nov. 1.
The executive order will be aimed primarily at Obamacare customers who are facing higher costs in the Obamacare market. In a call with reporters previewing the order, Andrew Bremberg, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said Trump still believes Congress needs to act on Obamacare, but also that “this administration must act to provide relief.” The executive order, he said, is the one action over the next few months that can “prevent harms by Obamacare’s failures.”
Trump’s executive order has five components, said Brian Blase, special assistant to the president for Healthcare Policy with the National Economic Council. Broadly, it will direct the administration to increase healthcare choice and quality. The Department of Labor will have to expand the use of “association health plans,” which allow various small businesses, or perhaps individuals, to band together for the purpose of providing health insurance.
The order also would direct the secretaries of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services to issue regulations on short-term health insurance, which the Obama administration limited, and allow for changes to health reimbursement arrangements.
The agencies will have 180 days report to the president about any other changes that could be made, at the state or the federal level, to increase choices for consumers.
Middle-class Americans who do not receive health insurance through a job or through a government program are facing higher premiums under Obamacare for 2018, but the different agencies will need several months to be able to review the regulations, propose changes and allow for a public comment period before changes are made. This means changes probably won’t come in time for Obamacare’s open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.
Critics of the order say that when enacted, it will set customers up with skimpier plans that won’t adequately provide for their healthcare needs. They also worry that allowing people to peel out of Obamacare’s exchanges would further destabilize the exchanges, leaving sicker customers to use the Obamacare plans while healthier, younger customers leave. Such an imbalance would continue to cause insurers to lose money in the exchanges, prompting more exits in future years and continued increases in premiums.
Administration officials dispute these arguments, saying that their goal was instead to provide healthcare to people that would be less costly and offer consumers greater control.
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner