Trump’s Next Executive Order Could Bring Obamacare Crashing Down
According to officials in the White House, President Trump is considering an executive order that would undermine Obamacare’s individual mandate, a move that would hasten the death spiral already sending the Affordable Care Act to its demise. While sources say that Trump is hopeful that Republicans can accomplish something similar through the tax reform bill, the president is poised to act on his own if Congress can’t make that a reality. Trump is still irritated that Republicans couldn’t coalesce around a repeal and replacement of Obamacare in his first year, and he is eager to make good on his promises to the American people.
While Trump does not have the authority to lift the individual mandate on his own, he can make changes to its execution that would severely weaken its effect. By expanding the scope of exemptions, he can cut federal spending and give many Americans a tax break. The Obama administration developed the “hardship exemption” for people who face difficulties in affording a plan off the healthcare marketplace. These exemptions, currently granted to those who have recently lose a family member, faced bankruptcy, or some other form of financial hardship, could be expanded under a new executive order to give thousands of taxpayers relief from the law’s burdensome penalties.
For Republicans, the political pathway to eliminating the mandate altogether is rocky. Without it, young, healthy customers would have little reason to purchase insurance that they don’t feel they want or need. This would lead to an older, sicker insurance pool and inevitably do one of two things: Drive premiums into the realm of the unaffordable or drive insurance companies out of the marketplace altogether. Since this is already happening in many states, however, a move to eliminate or weaken the individual mandate may only be accelerating a process already in progress.
According to the Washington Examiner, Republicans could turn to a repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill as a mechanism for shaving money off the ballooning budget.
“Including repeal of the individual mandate’s penalties in the tax bill instead of through executive order would create billions in budget savings that Republicans need to pay for tax cuts,” writes the Examiner. “According to a Congressional Budget Office report published in December 2016, repeal of the individual mandate would save $416 billion over a decade, since it would mean fewer people would be enrolled in Medicaid and fewer subsidy payments would go to people who sign up for private coverage.”
Of course, the benefits to eliminating or at least weakening the individual mandate go well beyond the budget savings. Since Obamacare’s introduction, this feature has been one of the most unfair, illiberal, and cruel aspects of an undemocratic law. Intended to bring more people into the insurance pool, it has done little more than penalize poor Americans for not being able to afford health insurance. It is a harsh tax on Americans who have committed no other sin than to not make enough money! That was Obama’s gracious gift to those who voted for him, and it boggles the mind to this day that his supporters did not turn on him viciously when it kicked into effect.
Republicans are still likely to pay a political price for their failure to repeal this bastard of a law, but scrapping the individual mandate – by hook or by crook – would go a long way towards buying them some forgiveness.