President Donald Trump is taking his first steps to fulfill his vow to dismantle Obamacare on Thursday, signing an executive order that he says will bring affordable health insurance to millions more people.
The executive order would direct federal agencies to study how to make it easier for small businesses, and possibly individuals, to join together and buy health insurance, a senior administration official said Thursday.
Separately, the order would allow consumers to buy short-term policies, which don't have to comply with Obamacare's protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Also, it looks to broaden the ability of employers to give workers money to buy their own coverage.
The changes could take six months or more to take effect, the official said.
Supporters say these moves will make health insurance more affordable for millions of people.
Critics, however, worry that the order may free these association health plans from several key Obamacare regulations and from state oversight, allowing them to sell plans with lower premiums but skimpier benefits across state lines. That could siphon off younger and healthier customers from Obamacare and send premiums skyrocketing for sicker people left in the exchanges.
Trump's action on Thursday is unlikely to be his final say on Obamacare, which he's unsuccessfully worked to dismantle since taking office. White House officials say Trump will consider additional executive actions to overhaul what they claim are the law's deficiencies.
Speaking in the Oval Office earlier this week, Trump previewed unilateral action that he claimed would dramatically improve insurance options for Americans, which he said had been limited by Obamacare.
"I will be signing something probably this week which is going to go a long way to take care of people that have been so badly hurt on health care," Trump said Tuesday ahead of a meeting with Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state. "They will be able to buy across state lines. They will get great competitive health care and it will cost the United States nothing."
Trump first vowed late last month to take executive action to repair aspects of the law, which he has deemed a failure. The plan has drawn backing from lawmakers like Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who has identified specific reforms that could be made by the President alone.
Trump's efforts with congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have floundered after analyses of the GOP replacement plans showed the number of Americans without insurance would increase by millions. Scrapping the Obama-era law was a signature campaign promise for the President.
Speaking Tuesday, Trump described his executive order as "very simple in one way, but intricate in another."
He said people would be able to buy plans from "many, many competitors," which he implied would drive down prices.
"We will have to do something with Obamacare because it's failing," he said.