US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines, aimed at creating more choice on the marketplace and reining in the rising insurance premiums.
The new executive order will increase competition, choice and access to healthcare for millions of Americans, while costing the US government “virtually nothing,” Trump said.
Introducing the president, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called the executive order “the biggest free-market reform of healthcare in a generation.”
Vice President Mike Pence called it the “critical step to lower the cost of health insurance.”
Allowing people to buy insurance across state lines will create “tremendous competition,” Trump said, adding that “insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person to sign up,” and costs will go down as a result.
He said the new executive order would provide millions of Americans with relief from the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare.
Insurance costs “skyrocketed” under Obamacare, the president argued, saying people in Alaska saw their premiums go up 200 percent. One third of all counties in America have only a single insurer selling insurance on the Obamacare exchange, Trump said, adding that soon many will have none.
Several initiatives to repeal and replace Obamacare failed in the Republican-majority Senate, with several senators, including John McCain (R-Arizona) saying the replacement portion has not been properly thought through.
The executive order will expand access to so-called “association health plans” (AHP) – plans written by trade associations, small businesses and other groups. It wouldn’t allow these plans to base premiums on preexisting conditions, according to Fox News.
Trump also ordered to ease restrictions on short-term insurance policies, which Obamacare regulations limited to three months in duration, but his plan would expand to one year.
While proponents of the move see it as a way to bring down insurance costs, critics argue that ultimately it will raise costs for the sick.
Expanding AHPs and increasing short-term insurance policies could be detrimental to the current insurance market that complies with Obamacare regulations, Cori Uccello from the American Academy of Actuaries told Fox News. Healthy people could leave the market, turning it into a high-risk pool, she said.
“If a goal is to provide protections for people with preexisting conditions, this is a step in the wrong direction,” according to Uccello.
The changes will most likely have no effect on 2018 Obamacare premiums and will still need to go through the rule-making process, which could take several take months.