PRESIDENT Donald Trump on Thursday made it easier for Americans to buy bare-bones health insurance plans, using his presidential powers to undermine Obamacare after fellow Republicans in Congress failed to repeal the 2010 law.
Trump signed an executive order aimed at letting small businesses band together across state lines to buy cheaper, less regulated health plans for their employees with fewer benefits.
It was Trump’s most concrete step to undo Obamacare since he took office in January promising to dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of “using a wrecking ball to single-handedly rip apart our healthcare system.”
“Having failed to repeal the law in Congress, the president is sabotaging the system,” Schumer said.
The House of Representatives in May passed Republican legislation to gut Obamacare. But attempts by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare failed in July and September, in part because the proposed legislation would have caused millions of Americans to lose healthcare coverage.
Republicans call Obamacare, which extended health insurance to 20 million people, a government intrusion into Americans’ healthcare, and have been promising for seven years to scrap it.
Trump’s order weakens Obamacare in part by giving people more access to plans that do not cover essential health benefits such as maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, and mental health and addiction treatment.
Obamacare, known formally as the Affordable Care Act, requires most small business and individual health plans to cover those benefits.
“The cost of the Obamacare has been so outrageous, it is absolutely destroying everything in its wake,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony.
Trump’s order was aimed at making it easier for small businesses to join together as associations across state lines to buy cheaper, less regulated health plans, but it might face legal challenges.
The order also sought to change an Obama-era limit on the time span people can use short-term health insurance plans, which are cheaper but cover few medical benefits. Those plans are currently limited to three months.