President to sign executive order on health care

Photo: Sean Spicer

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Thursday that aims to make lower-premium plans more widely available.

“We’re going to have great healthcare, cross state lines, people can buy it, it will cost the government nothing, you’ll go out, private insurers are going to give you incredible health care,” the President told Fox News.

Administration officials said one of the main ideas is to ease the way for groups and associations to sponsor coverage that can be marketed across the land, reflecting the President’s belief that interstate competition will lead to lower premiums for consumers who buy their own health insurance policies, as well as for small businesses.

Those “association health plans” could be shielded from state and federal requirements such as mandates for coverage of certain standard benefits, equal pricing regardless of a customer’s health status, and no dollar limits on how much the insurer would pay out.

Other elements of the White House proposal may include:

— Easing current restrictions on short-term policies that last less than a year, an option for people making a life transition, from recent college graduates to early retirees.

—Allowing employers to set aside pre-tax dollars so workers can use the money to buy an individual health policy.

Experts said President Trump’s plan probably wouldn’t have much impact on premiums for 2018, which are expected to be sharply higher in many states for people buying their own policies. Sponsors would have to be found to offer and market the new style association plans, and insurers would have to step up to design and administer them.

About 17 million people now buy individual health insurance policies.

Nearly 9 million consumers receive tax credits under the Affordable Care Act and are protected from higher premiums.

But those who get no subsidies are exposed to the full brunt of cost increases that could reach well into the double digits in many states next year.

Many in this latter group are solid middle-class, including self-employed business people and early retirees. Cutting their premiums has been a longstanding political promise for Republicans.