Trump Signs Order to Expand AHPs
President Trump signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to rewrite federal rules for association health plans (AHPs), which allow small businesses of a similar type to band together through an association to purchase coverage.
Under the executive order, membership groups could sponsor insurance plans across state lines and while avoiding some requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including requirements that they cover certain benefits.
The administration is also expanding the availability of short-term insurance plans, allowing insurers to sell short-term insurance that would last for up to a year, up from three months under Obama-era restrictions. These stop-gap policies may not be required to cover pre-existing conditions, mental health services and other benefits, but could serve as a bridge for people who are between jobs or young adults no longer eligible to be on their parents’ health plans.
Critics say such plans would attract younger, healthier people, causing prices to skyrocket for those older or sicker individuals in the Obamacare markets.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who joined Trump at the White House today, has been pushing for new rules that would expand AHPs, and called Thursday’s executive order “the biggest free market reform of health care in a generation.”
Administration officials made clear that the executive order does not make changes itself, but directs agencies to issue new regulations. Those new rules will be subject to a notice and comment period that could take months, officials told reporters.
Among the details missing in Trump’s executive order is what qualifies as an association. The Labor Department (DOL) is working on a reinterpretation of the workplace rule that would broaden the kinds of groups could qualify as an association and exempt themselves from ACA regulations
GOP Still Looking for Consensus on Tax Plan
President Trump held an event last week in Harrisburg, PA, to emphasize the need for massive tax cuts. Senate Republicans will try to clear a major legislative hurdle with this week’s vote on their budget resolution.
During the speech to truckers in Harrisburg, Trump said workers could see an additional $4,000 in pay if Congress enacts the tax plan he and Republican leaders are working to enact. “You’re going to make more money, you’re going to do better than ever before,” Trump told the audience.
Many Democrats dispute Trump’s claim that tax reform will help the middle class. “Congressional Republicans are not pursuing tax reform, just a massive tax giveaway to the super-rich at the expense of the middle class,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) this week. “Let’s pass a real tax reform bill that actually helps the middle class and our communities that are still struggling.”
In order to pave the way for tax reform, Senate Republicans will need to pass a budget resolution that would allow tax cuts to raise the deficit by as much as $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can only afford to lose two GOP votes and pass the budget resolution. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been a critic of the budget resolution because it raises the deficit; Trump has publicly feuded in recent days with Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who is considered a key vote. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) are others whose support for the budget is uncertain.
The House has already passed a budget resolution that is far more conservative than the one being considered in the Senate, but House leaders have said they are confident they can work out the differences in conference.
Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event earlier today, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said tax writers are on track to get a tax bill through the House in November, but said he will keep the House in session through Christmas if they have not advanced a tax bill before then.
“We’re going to keep people here for Christmas if we have to,” Ryan said. “I don’t care. We have to get this done … If we squander this opportunity, it’s not going to come back.”