President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at lowering health care costs and providing millions of Americans with more health care options.
The executive order expands access for small businesses to Association Health Plans, giving them greater purchasing power and a stronger position in negotiations with insurance companies.
The associations between small businesses can be formed across state lines.
“By potentially making it easier for employers to band together, workers could have access to a broader range of insurance options at lower rates in the large group market,” the White House said in a statement.
The executive order also calls on the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider expanding coverage through low cost short-term limited duration (STLDI) insurance.
This type of insurance is not subjected to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), thus allowing for lower prices. According to the White House, the plans are on average only 1/3 of the cost of the lowest priced Obamacare plans.
“Despite its low cost, STLDI typically features broad provider networks and high coverage limits,” the White House said.
Another way the executive order aims to lower health care costs is by changing the current Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), allowing employees to reimburse employees for their health care expenses tax-free.
The expansion of HRAs would provide greater flexibility to employees on how to finance their health care needs.
At the signing of the executive order, Trump described Obamacare as a “nightmare,” and said today’s order is only the beginning.
Since the ACA bill was implemented, health care options have sharply decreased across the country, while prices have significantly increased. Last year states across the country saw an average increase of 25 percent in health care premiums. In Arizona, the increase was as high as 116%.
Vice President Mike Pence described the executive order as “a critical step to lower health cost for working Americans.”
“Every day Obamacare survives is another day the American people suffer,” Pence said, saying that under the executive order Americans will have “more choices for affordable health care.”
Trump’s executive action comes after Congress failed to pass a new health care bill. A Republican-introduced bill in the Senate aimed at repealing and replacing the ACA failed in the Senate in July after three Republican senators voted against it.
A vote on a separate bill introduced by senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) was pulled in September after it became clear Senate Republicans were not able to secure enough votes.
Trump said on Wednesday that there will still be a vote later on the so-called block grants which formed an essential part of the Graham-Cassidy bill. Because all Senate Democrats have indicated they will vote against the bill, Republicans are using the process of reconciliation to pass the bill.
Under the legislative procedure, a bill can pass with a simple majority, 51 votes in the Senate, rather than the 60 normally required. The next period allowing reconciliation won’t be until next year.
Trump said that in the coming months more “relief” and more “freedom” will come for Americans.