Sen. Rand Paul (R-TN) says President Trump is thinking about taking executive action to fix the flagging U.S. health care system.
Democrats rejoiced last week when Republicans failed to get enough votes to revamp Obamacare, but behind the scenes party leaders know fixes must be made. But so far, no lawmaker has come forward with a plan, leaving Trump stuck with the problem.
In a phone call with Trump, Paul said the president told him he might go it alone. "Paul said he told Trump he thought he had the authority to create associations that would allow organizations — such as the AARP that represents retirees, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — to offer group health insurance plans," Reuters reported.
While the Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare has been put on hold, Trump has targeted health care insurers, threatening to cut federal subsidies that help poorer people afford the plans. "If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?" the president wrote on Twitter.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare immediately if elected. But intra-party fighting among Republicans has nixed that promise. "There's just too much animosity and we're too divided on healthcare," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Reuters.
But if the federal government simply stopped making the subsidy payments, the health care system set up by former president Barack Obama would be on shaky ground, to say the least. Hatch, though, said he thinks Congress would have to approve such a change to the Obamacare law.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News also wrote that Trump is moving toward taking unilateral action. In a story headlined "Now Trump May Try to Kill Obamacare Slowly," the news agency wrote:
One of the first steps the president could take would be to stop the monthly payments to insurers known as cost-sharing-reduction subsidies. The administration last made a payment about a week ago for the previous 30 days, but hasn’t made a long-term commitment. Trump has called the subsidies a “bailout” for insurance companies in the past.
“We are still considering our options,” Ninio Fetalvo, a spokesman for Trump, said in an e-mail. ...
Another way Trump could hamper the ACA is to instruct [Health and Human Resources Secretary Tom] Price’s department to direct little or no support to open enrollment when people sign up for Obamacare plans near the end of the year. It could include ignoring website upkeep, not advertising the enrollment period and offering little help for people who have difficulty signing up.
As for the individual mandate, the least popular part of the ACA, the Trump administration could choose not to enforce the penalties for uninsured people or broaden exemptions to the law that currently excuse those who show a hardship prevented them from having coverage. The Internal Revenue Service, which enforces the penalty, said in January it would no longer reject filings if taxpayers didn’t indicate whether they had insurance. Unless the IRS follows up with each silent filing, this could let some uninsured people dodge the penalty.