Trump’s latest order really could destroy the individual health insurance market

Today President Trump signed a new executive order that would, once fully implemented, allow a lot of people to obtain cheaper but lousier health insurance. (Actually, as you can see in this clip, he almost forgot to sign it, but someone reminded him.) If you’re currently healthy and don’t think you will get seriously sick, this sounds pretty positive. After all, who wouldn’t want to save money, and isn’t choice a good thing? For people who are lucky enough to stay healthy, maybe, if you overlook the bigger federal deficit or higher taxes. For those who do get injured or sick, it’s a disaster, though exactly how big a disaster is hard to say, because a lot of details remain to be determined. The policy probably won’t be implemented for many months if at all.

But in the worse case scenario — which isn’t all that far fetched — the order could make decent individual insurance impossible to buy for many people with pre-existing conditions.

For an outline of the order does and reactions to it, see this report (text and audio) from NPR’s Scott Horsley. See also the following report on PBS News Hour, which puts the action in the broader context of Trump’s other efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, such as drastically cutting the enrollment period for individual policies (which this year ends in mid-December rather than running through January as in the past):


Journalist and blogger Kevin Drum praised outlets with analyses addressing the dangers of the policy, with headlines that bluntly summarize the negative assessment:

  • “Foiled in Congress, Trump Signs Order to Undermine Obamacare” (The New York Times)
  • “Trump begins Obamacare dismantling with executive order” (CNN)
  • “Trump signs order to eliminate ACA insurance rules, undermine marketplaces” (The Washington Post)

Drum sees a strategy behind this: “Trump’s plan, obviously, is that this chaos will force Congress to respond. Anything will be better than a collapse of the entire individual market. Even Democrats will be forced to support a Republican plan that will at least prevent the market from imploding.” Maybe. Or maybe Trump really does believe he’s arranging a way for people to buy cheaper insurance and doesn’t realize the real-world consequences. Some time ago Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo proposed what came to be known as “Trump’s Razor,” a rule of thumb that roughly says that the stupidest explanation for Trump’s actions are the most likely to be true.

Finally, here’s something from Seth Meyers broadcast on Trump’s 100th day in office. (I previously posted it back in April.) Just watch the first four minutes, which are full of a whole series Trump clips from the campaign that sound exactly like he’s describing himself. Seriously, if you didn’t see it before, watch it. It’s definitely worth four minutes of your time.


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