President Trump’s executive order directs federal agencies to write new rules that would allow consumers to buy less regulated, less expensive health insurance plans. The agencies will take months to enact new regulations and after that it’s unclear when consumers should expect premium relief. But this could be a game changer for those seeking more insurance options than have been permitted under ObamaCare.

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President Trump is wielding his rule-making power to get closer to his goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare. His executive order issued Thursday broadly tasks the administration with developing policies to increase health care competition and choice in order to improve the quality of health care and lower prices. The order, President Trump said, would give “millions of Americans with Obamacare relief.”

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One piece of this week’s order directs the Labor Department to “consider expanding access” to Association Health Plans, which would allow small businesses to team up to offer insurance. The order also seeks to expand the flexibility and use of health reimbursement arrangements, giving employees more flexibility in how they spend the pretax dollars in their accounts, including paying insurance premiums. A third part of the order directs cabinet agencies to consider new rules on allowing short-term insurance plans for up to a year to cover periods between more stable coverage (from the three months allowed Obama administration rules).

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President Trump will sign an executive order on Thursday morning aimed at taking action on health care after Congress’s failure to repeal ObamaCare.

The order will ease rules on small businesses banding together to buy health insurance, through what are known as association health plans, and lift Obama administration limits on short-term health insurance plans, according to a source on a call with administration officials Wednesday night.
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Congressional Republicans have failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but some of them aren’t ready to stop campaigning on that promise. “I don’t see any problem with talking about repeal and replace. We still want to do it. It’s not over,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said.

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The Trump administration is poised to roll back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, vastly expanding exemptions for those that cite moral or religious objections.

The new rules, which could be issued as soon as Friday, fulfill a campaign promise by President Trump and are sure to touch off a round of lawsuits on the issue.

More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.

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Full-scale repeal of Obamacare has failed, at least for now. But there are still components of the law that can, and should, be rolled back immediately. The Independent Payment Advisory Board is a prime example.

Obamacare created the board of 15 unelected, presidentially-appointed bureaucrats to keep Medicare’s costs under control. If entitlement spending growth surpasses a specific target (currently, aggregate GDP growth plus 1 percent) the board must recommend Medicare cuts.

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Not even 24 hours after the latest “repeal and replace” proposal ran out of steam, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ignited a new round of health policy speculation by predicting, during a cable news interview, impending Trump administration action on a longtime Republican go-to idea: association health plans.

“If [consumers] can join large groups, get protection and less expensive insurance … it will solve a lot of problems in the individual market,” Paul said last week on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”

Later, President Donald Trump told reporters that he would “probably be signing a very major executive order” that could affect “millions of people.”

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It’s sort of poetic, in a sad way, that the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on September 29 coincided so closely with the expiration of the 2017 budget resolution on September 30.  Those two events signaled the end, at least for now, of Congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare through reconciliation–that being the arcane process by which the GOP could have avoided a crippling Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

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Republicans have now failed twice to repeal and replace ObamaCare. But their whole focus has been wrong. The debate centered, like ObamaCare, on the number of people with health insurance. A more direct path to broadening access would be to reduce the cost of care. This means creating market conditions long proven to bring down prices while improving quality—empowering consumers to seek value, increasing the supply of care, and stimulating competition.

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