White House

Trump takes quick action that could imperil Obamacare individual mandate

President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, signs his first executive order on health care, Friday, Jan, 20, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, signs his first executive order on health care, Friday, Jan, 20, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. AP

Hours after taking office, President Donald Trump signed an order Friday aimed at propelling the demise of former President Barack Obama’s prized health care act.

Trump, who campaigned against the Affordable Care Act, quickly signaled his zeal to dismantle his predecessor’s signature legislative accomplishment, signing an executive order that his administration hopes could gut the 2010 law.

The executive order gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other agencies with jurisdiction over the law the ability to grant waivers to “any provision or requirement” that would impose a “fiscal burden” on any state, or a “cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals” or others who purchase health care.

Health care analysts said that could include the individual mandate that girds the law by requiring most Americans to either purchase insurance or pay a fee.

“This is a very sweeping order that could have major ramifications,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. That could include allowing hardship exemptions from the individual mandate, he said, “which could create chaos in the individual insurance market.”

The order “doesn’t create any new authority for federal agencies, but it signals that the Trump administration is planning to use whatever authority it has to scale back and undo provisions” of the act, Levitt said.

Congressional Republicans, who have long sought to repeal the law known as Obamacare, hailed Trump’s move -- one of several actions he took after arriving at the White House following his swearing-in and a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It is heartening to see President Trump take immediate action to begin undoing the damage caused by Obamacare,” Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement. “The American people desperately need relief from this law that is crumbling before our eyes.”

Both chambers of Congress have advanced plans to begin to repeal the law, but it’s expected to take weeks and Republicans have yet to agree on a replacement plan.

Critics of the repeal effort called Trump’s move “meaningless campaign messaging.

“The law is not a burden to the 22 million Americans who would not have health insurance without it,” said Center for American Progress Vice President for Health Policy Topher Spiro. “Rather than stoking anxiety, President Trump should ease the burden on the minds of millions by removing the threat of a partisan rush to repeal the law.”

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

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