Health Care

Still Trimming Around the ObamaCare Edges

Trump's administration has proposed new regulations to allow for cheaper, short-term health care plans.

Brian Mark Weber · Feb. 26, 2018

Republicans may have failed to repeal ObamaCare, but tweaking the law continues. Donald Trump’s administration has proposed new regulations to allow for the sale of short-term health care plans as an alternative to the more comprehensive and expensive ObamaCare plans.

One of the key aspects of the new plan would repeal the provision that currently limits short-term plans to 90 days, a move designed by the Obama administration to make them less appealing to those shopping around for coverage. Plans would now stay in place for a full 12 months.

Another aspect of Trump’s proposal, made possible by an executive order back in October, is the support of association health care plans that allow small businesses or individuals within a company to come together and purchase health care plans for the group. Some health insurance companies that left ObamaCare due to rising costs would likely find these new plans to be a viable option.

All in all, the new short-term coverage option would have several important effects, all of which would continue to chip away at ObamaCare and ensure its ultimate demise. For example, younger, healthier people will find the new plans attractive because of their affordability.

Although an outright appeal of ObamaCare is preferable, these are important steps in the right direction. If the law is here to stay, Republicans should create alternatives so that as few people as possible remain in the current system.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted, “Americans need more choices in health insurance so they can find coverage that meets their needs.” Azar added, “The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices. The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and families have access to quality, affordable healthcare that works for them.”

But are there any negatives that come with these short-term plans?

Robert Verbruggen writes at National Review that there is a downside: “If the healthy leave Obamacare for short-term plans in significant numbers — which no one can really predict — the folks left behind will be disproportionately sick, and premiums will rise. When premiums rise, subsidies for low-income enrollees automatically rise too, meaning taxpayers will get some of the bill. Those who buy comprehensive plans but don’t qualify for subsidies, who are already struggling the most under Obamacare, will be hardest hit.”

Now there’s a way around this problem: The GOP Congress can make changes to the structure of the law.

And this is the most exasperating part of this issue. Republicans are not only the majority in Congress, but they have a president waiting to sign just about anything they send his way. With Congress’ inaction, President Trump is left alone to make executive decisions that can tweak the health care system while falling short of the substantive changes needed to bring about real reform.

But let’s not blame all Republicans for this dilemma. In reality, a few stubbornly “moderate” Senate Republicans like John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski blocked any and every iteration of ObamaCare repeal last year. That trio ensured Republicans failed to keep the promises of the previous seven years.

This isn’t going to deter the more conservative members of Congress from pushing forward. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and a few of his colleagues continue to work on legislation to limit the damage from ObamaCare. This includes preventing the IRS from collecting employer-mandate fines.

That sounds good as far as it goes, but “Elect Republicans — we’ll make ObamaCare slightly less terrible” isn’t the most inspiring of campaign slogans.

Still, what would the Democrats do about health care were they to get back into power? John Sexton writes that they want to move “to a single-payer program in which everyone gets ‘free’ insurance. Of course, it’s not really free. Taxes would need to go up dramatically to pay for it. And those working hard would still be heavily subsidizing those who don’t work at all. But because all of the money would be paid through taxes, public awareness of who is paying for what would be greatly reduced.”

Right now, other than a few noticeable voices in Congress, the president seems to be forging ahead on his own by reminding the American people, and Republicans in Congress, that we need to keep working on a full repeal.

Speaking Friday at the Conservative Action Political Conference (CPAC) outside of Washington, President Trump promised the crowd, “Piece by piece by piece, ObamaCare is just being wiped out. The individual mandate essentially wipes it out. I think we may be better off. And people are getting great health care plans and we’re not finished yet.”

Clearly the president is taking small but important steps to dismantle ObamaCare and give Americans more health care options.

Imagine what we could do if Republicans in Congress would get on board and do the same.

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