Why the New Obamacare ‘Fix’ Is a Dud, and Why the Narrative Justifying It Is Wrong

While President Donald Trump’s response to the bipartisan health care proposal on Capitol Hill has slid from optimistic to negative, and then back to optimistic, he would be right to move away from this deal.

Despite its advocates’ claims, this proposal isn’t needed to help low-income Americans or stabilize the insurance markets—and is a major distraction from the steps really needed to help with both.

While Trump had made statements indicating he would potentially support a bipartisan bill to tackle health care reform, he quickly expressed concern over the proposal introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., which would allegedly stabilize health care markets.

Trump Tweeted out on Wednesday:

The legislation has been billed as a way to address Trump’s recent executive order ending cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurance companies.

The common narrative is that Trump’s decision will collapse the health insurance market if there isn’t some way to “bail out” insurance companies that were promised Obamacare subsidies for offering higher-level plans at a cost below their value.

As The Daily Signal explained in May:

The cost-sharing reductions are subsidies designed to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income patients who purchase silver-level plans through Obamacare’s exchanges. The subsidies are only available to marketplace customers with an income between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty line ($12,000 to $30,000 for an individual).

In 2017, 7 million people—58 percent of marketplace enrollees—qualified for cost-sharing reductions, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

These subsidies were challenged on constitutional grounds, as the funding was never appropriated by Congress.

The Trump administration has now effectively mooted that legal challenge by announcing that it will no longer pay the subsidies. However, some see the move as a dangerous step that will cause damage to the health insurance industry and dramatically increase premiums.

The subsidies, in general, are a poorly conceived idea. Obamacare effectively told insurers to give low-income enrollees platinum-level coverage for the price of silver-level coverage, and promised to pay the addition cost (about 30 percent more) in the form of these back-door subsidies.

The Alexander-Murray bill would essentially continue the cost-sharing payments for an additional two years to “stabilize” the market and keep premiums “low.”

Alexander said that he worked on this proposal to “help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019.”

This bailout is premised on the idea that without it, the health care markets will collapse and most Americans will see their premiums increase dramatically.

Some, like Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy, have insinuated that stopping the subsidies is simply a cunning plot by the Trump administration to wreck Obamacare.

“There doesn’t appear to be any policy upside to Trump’s move to sabotage the current health care system, except to use its failure as leverage to pass a new law,” she wrote.

But this is a false narrative.

States have already prepared for the withdrawal of these cost-sharing payments, and continuing to pay these subsidies will do little to either stabilize or destabilize health insurance markets for most Americans.

For instance, in July, California’s state Obamacare exchange announced that it “took steps to protect most consumers from any rate increases caused by the uncertainty surrounding cost-sharing reduction payments.”

The only customers who would be impacted would be silver-level plan purchasers who would experience an increase in their premiums but “also see an increase in the amount of financial assistance they receive, leaving their net payment virtually the same.”

Pennsylvania also made similar adjustments. The Pennsylvania Insurance Commission recently announced:

Because cost-sharing reductions are only available on silver plans, rate increases necessitated by the non-payment of these cost-reductions will be limited to silver plans. On-exchange bronze, gold, and platinum plans and off-exchange silver plans will not be impacted by these disproportionate increases.

In other words, insurance regulators in California, Pennsylvania, and other states are effectively converting this program into how it could have been better designed from the beginning—more generous coverage for low-income people that carries a higher up-front premium, but with higher up-front subsidies to match the costs.

According to The Hill, Haislmaier said that continuing the federally subsidized payments keeps the Obamacare market afloat, but does nothing for the vast and unsubsidized individual health insurance market.

>>> Here Are 7 Implications of Ending Obamacare’s Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments

“What is instead needed to stabilize the unsubsidized market is the removal of Obamacare’s cost-increasing insurance mandates and misguided regulations,” he said. “To fix that Obamacare-caused damage and lower the cost of insurance, Congress will need to make other policy reforms.”

Of course, this change is not in the Alexander-Murray bill, nor are there any meaningful proposals to fix Obamacare. It’s simply a costly proposal to fix a non-crisis as the real problems with our health care system go unaddressed.

The post Why the New Obamacare ‘Fix’ Is a Dud, and Why the Narrative Justifying It Is Wrong appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Why the New Obamacare ‘Fix’ Is a Dud, and Why the Narrative Justifying It Is Wrong

While President Donald Trump’s response to the bipartisan health care proposal on Capitol Hill has slid from optimistic to negative, and then back to optimistic, he would be right to move away from this deal.

Despite its advocates’ claims, this proposal isn’t needed to help low-income Americans or stabilize the insurance markets—and is a major distraction from the steps really needed to help with both.

While Trump had made statements indicating he would potentially support a bipartisan bill to tackle health care reform, he quickly expressed concern over the proposal introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., which would allegedly stabilize health care markets.

Trump Tweeted out on Wednesday:

The legislation has been billed as a way to address Trump’s recent executive order ending cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurance companies.

The common narrative is that Trump’s decision will collapse the health insurance market if there isn’t some way to “bail out” insurance companies that were promised Obamacare subsidies for offering higher-level plans at a cost below their value.

As The Daily Signal explained in May:

The cost-sharing reductions are subsidies designed to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income patients who purchase silver-level plans through Obamacare’s exchanges. The subsidies are only available to marketplace customers with an income between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty line ($12,000 to $30,000 for an individual).

In 2017, 7 million people—58 percent of marketplace enrollees—qualified for cost-sharing reductions, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

These subsidies were challenged on constitutional grounds, as the funding was never appropriated by Congress.

The Trump administration has now effectively mooted that legal challenge by announcing that it will no longer pay the subsidies. However, some see the move as a dangerous step that will cause damage to the health insurance industry and dramatically increase premiums.

The subsidies, in general, are a poorly conceived idea. Obamacare effectively told insurers to give low-income enrollees platinum-level coverage for the price of silver-level coverage, and promised to pay the addition cost (about 30 percent more) in the form of these back-door subsidies.

The Alexander-Murray bill would essentially continue the cost-sharing payments for an additional two years to “stabilize” the market and keep premiums “low.”

Alexander said that he worked on this proposal to “help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019.”

This bailout is premised on the idea that without it, the health care markets will collapse and most Americans will see their premiums increase dramatically.

Some, like Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy, have insinuated that stopping the subsidies is simply a cunning plot by the Trump administration to wreck Obamacare.

“There doesn’t appear to be any policy upside to Trump’s move to sabotage the current health care system, except to use its failure as leverage to pass a new law,” she wrote.

But this is a false narrative.

States have already prepared for the withdrawal of these cost-sharing payments, and continuing to pay these subsidies will do little to either stabilize or destabilize health insurance markets for most Americans.

For instance, in July, California’s state Obamacare exchange announced that it “took steps to protect most consumers from any rate increases caused by the uncertainty surrounding cost-sharing reduction payments.”

The only customers who would be impacted would be silver-level plan purchasers who would experience an increase in their premiums but “also see an increase in the amount of financial assistance they receive, leaving their net payment virtually the same.”

Pennsylvania also made similar adjustments. The Pennsylvania Insurance Commission recently announced:

Because cost-sharing reductions are only available on silver plans, rate increases necessitated by the non-payment of these cost-reductions will be limited to silver plans. On-exchange bronze, gold, and platinum plans and off-exchange silver plans will not be impacted by these disproportionate increases.

In other words, insurance regulators in California, Pennsylvania, and other states are effectively converting this program into how it could have been better designed from the beginning—more generous coverage for low-income people that carries a higher up-front premium, but with higher up-front subsidies to match the costs.

According to The Hill, Haislmaier said that continuing the federally subsidized payments keeps the Obamacare market afloat, but does nothing for the vast and unsubsidized individual health insurance market.

>>> Here Are 7 Implications of Ending Obamacare’s Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments

“What is instead needed to stabilize the unsubsidized market is the removal of Obamacare’s cost-increasing insurance mandates and misguided regulations,” he said. “To fix that Obamacare-caused damage and lower the cost of insurance, Congress will need to make other policy reforms.”

Of course, this change is not in the Alexander-Murray bill, nor are there any meaningful proposals to fix Obamacare. It’s simply a costly proposal to fix a non-crisis as the real problems with our health care system go unaddressed.

The post Why the New Obamacare ‘Fix’ Is a Dud, and Why the Narrative Justifying It Is Wrong appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Trump Says ‘I Can’t Support Bailing Out’ Insurance Companies Profiting From Obamacare

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he could not support the bipartisan proposal to shore up Obamacare and stabilize the health insurance markets through 2019.

“I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning.

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Trump said Tuesday evening at The Heritage Foundatation that he supports the efforts of Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to fix the problems with Obamacare, but he insists that lawmakers “find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

The Trump administration announced last week that it will no longer fund a crucial feature of Obamacare that helps low-income Americans purchase health insurance on the Affordable Care Act state exchanges, known as cost-sharing reductions. The president and a number of conservative members of Congress label these subsidies as welfare, or bailouts, for insurance providers.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the White House said in a statement. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post Trump Says ‘I Can’t Support Bailing Out’ Insurance Companies Profiting From Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

House Conservative Leader Calls Obamacare Bailout Bill ‘Unacceptable’

The latest attempt at a legislative fix to Obamacare was met with a mixture of hesitance and outright opposition by Republicans who have repeatedly vowed to pass a comprehensive repeal and replace bill.

A bipartisan bill, which was introduced Tuesday by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., would temporarily reinstate the federal payments to insurers that President Donald Trump cut off days ago and, in a nod to Republicans, would allow states limited flexibility in offering cheaper, less comprehensive plans.

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The legislative fix was met with recrimination by top Republican lawmakers hours after its release. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., who chairs the Republican Study Committee, publicly criticized the bill and said he could not support legislation that does not fully repeal Obamacare.

“Obamacare is in a ‘death spiral.’ Anything propping it up is only saving what Republicans promised to dismantle,” Walker tweeted. He elaborated further in a statement posted on Twitter, saying, “The GOP should focus on repealing & replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., cast the bill as a costly continuation of Obamacare.

“None of our guys voted for Obamacare,” Cole told The Washington Post. “They’re not very interested in sustaining it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to commit one way or the other, telling reporters, “We haven’t had a chance to think about a way forward yet,” when asked about the viability of the bill Tuesday afternoon. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., refused to comment.

After casting the bill as a short-term fix to stabilize the market Tuesday, Trump reversed course, tweeting Wednesday that he could not support a bill that reinstates cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, which he recently discontinued.

Trump’s Wednesday tweet represents a significantly more definitive rebuke of the legislation relative to statements he made Tuesday night while addressing The Heritage Foundation.

“While I commend the bipartisan work done by Sens. Alexander and Murray,” Trump said during the Tuesday night speech, “I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

Earlier in the day, speaking at the White House, Trump described the bill as a “short-term deal” that would help “get us over this intermediate hump.”

A number of Republican senators insisted on waiting to give their opinion until more details have been released. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., dismissed the idea that the bill represents a quick fix.

“Most of the members of the conference are finding out about the details for the first time. I don’t think anybody beyond Lamar and a few others know,” Kennedy told Politico. “The details are important.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, echoed Kennedy’s sentiment, telling Politico, “I’m going to wait and examine the details.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post House Conservative Leader Calls Obamacare Bailout Bill ‘Unacceptable’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

This Unelected Board Would Have Put Seniors’ Health Care at Risk. Now, It’s On the Chopping Block.

Finding bipartisan agreement on any issue today is rare, and on health reform, essentially non-existent. So what’s getting both Democrats and Republicans on the same wavelength?

Four words: Independent Payment Advisory Board.

This board, also known as IPAB, doesn’t quite exist yet. Under Obamacare, it was meant to be a powerful bureaucratic body of 15 unelected officials appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

It’s job? Recommend ways to cut spending on Medicare—the program that provides health care to millions of American seniors. Specifically, it would have to recommend cuts in order to meet Obamacare’s budget targets, but without doing any harm to seniors. A tough task.

But while it was supposed to issue its first order recommendation in 2014, the board hasn’t even been assembled yet. President Barack Obama never appointed members to sit on the board, and President Donald Trump hasn’t appointed any, either.

But the board continues to exist on the books of Obamacare, and that’s of concern to Republicans—and, it seems, some Democrats.

Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., have introduced a bill that would repeal IPAB, and recently, the House Ways and Means Committee approved it. The bill has support from 43 Democrats and 221 Republicans.

The bipartisan concern is that Medicare policy should not be left to 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. Health policy analysts have long warned about these dangers, and members of both parties are responding.

To be clear, the board’s powers under Obamacare would be constrained. The board cannot make changes to cost-sharing rules, payment models, benefit offerings, or any structural reforms to the Medicare program. Its job is simply to make recommended spending cuts.

But turning this task over to 15 bureaucrats who can make arbitrary decisions about payment cuts to different medical treatments and procedures is unwise. That kind of concentrated power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats is just too much for a free society.

Moreover, IPAB would not be able to accomplish the kinds of deep structural reforms that Medicare needs. That is a job for Congress.

Medicare is a 50-year-old program that needs real reform, and that means having a heavy dose of market competition injected into it. It is these reforms, not arbitrary spending cuts from IPAB that will get Medicare costs under control.

Spending cuts from IPAB could also be counterproductive for seniors. They could actually jeopardize seniors’ access to care, and, as Heritage analysts and others have argued, push even more physicians out of the program.

After repealing IPAB, Congress should get to work on Medicare reform at the structural level.

The best course is to move to a flexible, market-driven premium support model. This would put patients in the driver’s seat, allowing them to choose the plan that best meets their needs, whether that be the traditional Medicare plan, an employer plan, or a private health plan.

Here, just as with the Medicare prescription drug program, the government would help cover the cost of a plan that the Medicare beneficiary chooses.

Real Medicare reform would empower patients, not bureaucrats. It would not only protect seniors’ access to quality care, but also expand personal choice and foster intense competition among Medicare plans and providers. That’s the right way to control costs.

This is all achievable. Once IPAB has been scrapped, the road to Medicare reform will be wide open. Congress should take the next steps in getting rid of IPAB—and we should all take heart that for once, bipartisan action is working.

The post This Unelected Board Would Have Put Seniors’ Health Care at Risk. Now, It’s On the Chopping Block. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

This Unelected Board Would Have Put Seniors’ Health Care at Risk. Now, It’s On the Chopping Block.

Finding bipartisan agreement on any issue today is rare, and on health reform, essentially non-existent. So what’s getting both Democrats and Republicans on the same wavelength?

Four words: Independent Payment Advisory Board.

This board, also known as IPAB, doesn’t quite exist yet. Under Obamacare, it was meant to be a powerful bureaucratic body of 15 unelected officials appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

It’s job? Recommend ways to cut spending on Medicare—the program that provides health care to millions of American seniors. Specifically, it would have to recommend cuts in order to meet Obamacare’s budget targets, but without doing any harm to seniors. A tough task.

But while it was supposed to issue its first order recommendation in 2014, the board hasn’t even been assembled yet. President Barack Obama never appointed members to sit on the board, and President Donald Trump hasn’t appointed any, either.

But the board continues to exist on the books of Obamacare, and that’s of concern to Republicans—and, it seems, some Democrats.

Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., have introduced a bill that would repeal IPAB, and recently, the House Ways and Means Committee approved it. The bill has support from 43 Democrats and 221 Republicans.

The bipartisan concern is that Medicare policy should not be left to 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. Health policy analysts have long warned about these dangers, and members of both parties are responding.

To be clear, the board’s powers under Obamacare would be constrained. The board cannot make changes to cost-sharing rules, payment models, benefit offerings, or any structural reforms to the Medicare program. Its job is simply to make recommended spending cuts.

But turning this task over to 15 bureaucrats who can make arbitrary decisions about payment cuts to different medical treatments and procedures is unwise. That kind of concentrated power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats is just too much for a free society.

Moreover, IPAB would not be able to accomplish the kinds of deep structural reforms that Medicare needs. That is a job for Congress.

Medicare is a 50-year-old program that needs real reform, and that means having a heavy dose of market competition injected into it. It is these reforms, not arbitrary spending cuts from IPAB that will get Medicare costs under control.

Spending cuts from IPAB could also be counterproductive for seniors. They could actually jeopardize seniors’ access to care, and, as Heritage analysts and others have argued, push even more physicians out of the program.

After repealing IPAB, Congress should get to work on Medicare reform at the structural level.

The best course is to move to a flexible, market-driven premium support model. This would put patients in the driver’s seat, allowing them to choose the plan that best meets their needs, whether that be the traditional Medicare plan, an employer plan, or a private health plan.

Here, just as with the Medicare prescription drug program, the government would help cover the cost of a plan that the Medicare beneficiary chooses.

Real Medicare reform would empower patients, not bureaucrats. It would not only protect seniors’ access to quality care, but also expand personal choice and foster intense competition among Medicare plans and providers. That’s the right way to control costs.

This is all achievable. Once IPAB has been scrapped, the road to Medicare reform will be wide open. Congress should take the next steps in getting rid of IPAB—and we should all take heart that for once, bipartisan action is working.

The post This Unelected Board Would Have Put Seniors’ Health Care at Risk. Now, It’s On the Chopping Block. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Trump Admin Will Cease Paying Critical Obamacare Subsidies

The Trump administration announced Thursday night that it will cease making payments to a subsidy that helps low- to moderate-income individuals purchase Obamacare health insurance plans.

The U.S. government cannot lawfully continue making the cost-sharing reduction payments that help prop up the Affordable Care Act, the White House announced in a statement. President Donald Trump’s decision to nix the payments comes after several months of flirting with the idea.

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“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the White House said in a statement announcing the decision. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

Trump has considered eliminating the cost-sharing reduction payments on several occasions, but decided to pull back while an impending lawsuit filed against the president’s predecessor in 2014 made its way through the courts. Lawmakers filed suit against the Obama administration at the time, claiming it was illegally reimbursing marketplace insurers for cost-sharing reduction payments.

Former House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders argued that cost-sharing reduction payments require congressional approval. Congress had never explicitly appropriated the funds for those payments, they argued, which made the administration’s actions unconstitutional.

After nearly two years of deliberation, a federal district court concluded the House’s claim had legal standing, and allowed the case to move forward in May 2016.

Trump’s decision to nix the cost-sharing reduction payments comes after he signed an executive order Thursday afternoon to begin formulating an approach to allow small businesses to join together across state lines to purchase coverage through what are known as association health plans. The executive order also expands access to short-term coverage plans that don’t comply with Obamacare requirements.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Why Trump’s Executive Order on Health Care Is a Positive Step

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Thursday that moves health care a step in the right direction.

The executive order instructs the secretaries of treasury, labor, and health and human services to propose regulatory changes that would increase choice and competition in health insurance.

This is the right course of action. In the absence of congressional action to address Obamacare’s damage, Trump is right to seek ways within his power to help those hurt by Obamacare’s skyrocketing premiums and the reduced access to quality plans.

Trump’s executive order addresses three problems that hinder people’s access to the insurance and care they need.

First, small business employees and the self-employed are most hurt by Obamacare. The percentage of workers at small firms receiving coverage through their employer has declined from nearly half in 2010 to about one-third in 2017. They face skyrocketing premiums and reduced choice in plans.

One challenge small businesses face is that, under current interpretations of a federal employee benefit law, they are limited in their ability to band together and secure coverage similar to plans offered by larger employers.

Obamacare exacerbated that problem by imposing costly new benefit mandates on small employer plans, but not on large employer plans. Thus, Trump is right to ask the Department of Labor to help by exploring ways to update this interpretation.

A change of this sort could allow small businesses and the self-employed to escape Obamacare’s costly benefit mandates and access new options run by associations that they have a stake in.

It could also help more small employers offer coverage to their workers. Newly enrolled individuals could save money—up to 20 to 50 percent on the cost of their insurance—by taking advantage of the tax break for employer-provided health insurance.

Second, President Barack Obama’s administration sharply reduced access to a low-cost option known as short-term, limited duration insurance.

These plans are often one-third of the cost of the cheapest Obamacare plans, yet typically feature broad provider networks and high coverage limits. That makes it harder than it should be for people between jobs to access a low-cost insurance plan.

As a result, people between jobs face suboptimal choices such as buying Obamacare’s heavily regulated and expensive plans, or going on Medicaid.

To address this, Trump rightly asks the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider reversing Obama’s decision.

Third, the Obama administration issued regulations limiting the ability of businesses to offer their employees coverage through “Health Reimbursement Arrangements,” in order to force such plans to comply with Obamacare’s standardized, one-size-fits-all benefit design.

Yet the whole point of those plans is to give businesses and workers a tool for customizing their health benefits according to their own needs and preferences.

Thus, Trump has rightly asked the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to explore ways to revise those regulations so that employers and workers have more flexibility and choices for health benefits.

While Trump’s executive order on health care is a step in the right direction, he needs Congress to get back to work in order to more fully improve our health system. The administration can only do so much, as it has to work within the confines of exiting law, including Obamacare.

For instance, the administration likely has sufficient authority to revise the regulations on health reimbursement arrangements so that employers have new options to give workers tax-free contributions to buy the individual market coverage of their choice.

But the potential benefits of that policy change will remain largely unrealized, so long as the law prevents insurers from offering anything other than Obamacare’s limited menu of standardized, over-regulated, over-priced individual market plans.

Thus, Congress needs to do its job, fully undo Obamacare’s damage, and offer broader relief to all Americans struggling with rising premium costs and reduced choice of plans.

The post Why Trump’s Executive Order on Health Care Is a Positive Step appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Why Trump’s Executive Order on Health Care Is a Positive Step

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Thursday that moves health care a step in the right direction.

The executive order instructs the secretaries of treasury, labor, and health and human services to propose regulatory changes that would increase choice and competition in health insurance.

This is the right course of action. In the absence of congressional action to address Obamacare’s damage, Trump is right to seek ways within his power to help those hurt by Obamacare’s skyrocketing premiums and the reduced access to quality plans.

Trump’s executive order addresses three problems that hinder people’s access to the insurance and care they need.

First, small business employees and the self-employed are most hurt by Obamacare. The percentage of workers at small firms receiving coverage through their employer has declined from nearly half in 2010 to about one-third in 2017. They face skyrocketing premiums and reduced choice in plans.

One challenge small businesses face is that, under current interpretations of a federal employee benefit law, they are limited in their ability to band together and secure coverage similar to plans offered by larger employers.

Obamacare exacerbated that problem by imposing costly new benefit mandates on small employer plans, but not on large employer plans. Thus, Trump is right to ask the Department of Labor to help by exploring ways to update this interpretation.

A change of this sort could allow small businesses and the self-employed to escape Obamacare’s costly benefit mandates and access new options run by associations that they have a stake in.

It could also help more small employers offer coverage to their workers. Newly enrolled individuals could save money—up to 20 to 50 percent on the cost of their insurance—by taking advantage of the tax break for employer-provided health insurance.

Second, President Barack Obama’s administration sharply reduced access to a low-cost option known as short-term, limited duration insurance.

These plans are often one-third of the cost of the cheapest Obamacare plans, yet typically feature broad provider networks and high coverage limits. That makes it harder than it should be for people between jobs to access a low-cost insurance plan.

As a result, people between jobs face suboptimal choices such as buying Obamacare’s heavily regulated and expensive plans, or going on Medicaid.

To address this, Trump rightly asks the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider reversing Obama’s decision.

Third, the Obama administration issued regulations limiting the ability of businesses to offer their employees coverage through “Health Reimbursement Arrangements,” in order to force such plans to comply with Obamacare’s standardized, one-size-fits-all benefit design.

Yet the whole point of those plans is to give businesses and workers a tool for customizing their health benefits according to their own needs and preferences.

Thus, Trump has rightly asked the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to explore ways to revise those regulations so that employers and workers have more flexibility and choices for health benefits.

While Trump’s executive order on health care is a step in the right direction, he needs Congress to get back to work in order to more fully improve our health system. The administration can only do so much, as it has to work within the confines of exiting law, including Obamacare.

For instance, the administration likely has sufficient authority to revise the regulations on health reimbursement arrangements so that employers have new options to give workers tax-free contributions to buy the individual market coverage of their choice.

But the potential benefits of that policy change will remain largely unrealized, so long as the law prevents insurers from offering anything other than Obamacare’s limited menu of standardized, over-regulated, over-priced individual market plans.

Thus, Congress needs to do its job, fully undo Obamacare’s damage, and offer broader relief to all Americans struggling with rising premium costs and reduced choice of plans.

The post Why Trump’s Executive Order on Health Care Is a Positive Step appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Trump, Paul Forge Alliance on ‘Biggest Free-Market Reform of Health Care in Generation’

Unable so far to achieve even a partial rollback of Obamacare from Congress, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that could make it easier for some consumers to buy insurance across state lines—potentially increasing competition.

“Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up … and you’ll get such low prices,” @POTUS says.

“The competition will be staggering,” Trump said before signing the order. “Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up, and you will be hopefully negotiating, negotiating, negotiating, and you’ll get such low prices for such great care.”

“Should have been done a long time ago, and it could have been done a long time ago,” he said.

Trump’s executive order primarily does three things:

  • Allows more small businesses to form associations to buy insurance plans, with the goal of creating more competition and expanding options across state lines.
  • Reviews establishment of “short-term limited duration insurance,” which would not be subject to Obamacare’s expensive and comprehensive coverage regulations.
  • Makes it easier for businesses to offer health reimbursement accounts, to allow more employees of small businesses to get coverage through work.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who opposed the recent Graham-Cassidy measure in the Senate to roll back Obamacare, heralded the executive order during the White House ceremony.

“President Trump is doing what I believe is the biggest free-market reform of health care in a generation. This reform, if it works and goes as planned, will allow millions of people to get insurance across state lines at an inexpensive price,” Paul said, speaking before the president did.

Trump, during his remarks, acknowledged the significance of the support from Paul, with whom he sparred during the 2016 Republican presidential primary season.

“I can say, when you get Rand Paul on your side, it has to be positive, that I can tell you. Boy,” Trump said to laughter and applause. “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.’”

Trump nearly walked away after his remarks before Vice President Mike Pence reminded him he still had to sign the order. After signing it, Trump gave the pen to Paul.

Trump did take a veiled swipe at congressional inaction on dismantling Obamacare when he noted: “For a long period of time since I’ve started running and since I became president of the United States, I just keep hearing ‘Repeal and replace, repeal and replace.’ Well, we’re starting that process, and we’re starting it in a very positive manner.”

After two tries, the House passed a measure to replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, but the Senate failed twice to get legislation to a conference committee after a few Republican defections–one of whom was Paul the last time.

“He is trying to give relief to Americans, through small group coverage, who are looking at horrendous premium increases,” Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in health policy at The Heritage Foundation and a former deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“There has to be an option for people that don’t get subsidies or we will see a reversal in the gains from Obamacare,” Moffit said. “There will be more uninsured.”

The Senate first tried to passed a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare that failed in a floor vote after three Republican defections: Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

A subsequent bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., focused on block-granting health care dollars to the states but never made it to a floor vote after Collins, McCain, and Paul all came out against it. By that point, Murkowski had said that she disliked the process.

“You look at what’s happening with the premiums and the increases of 100 percent and 120 percent, and even in one case, Alaska, over 200 percent and now, every congressional Democrat has blocked the effort to save Americans from Obamacare, along with a very small, frankly, handful of Republicans–three,” Trump said, adding:

Premiums have gone skyrocketing, [and] today, one-third of all the counties in America have only a single insurer selling coverage on an exchange, and next year it looks like nearly half of all counties in our country—think of that—all of the counties, one half will have only one insurer, and many will have none.

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