Rand Paul partners with President Trump on new health care executive order
By Thomas Novelly and Darcy Costello
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has found an ally in President Donald Trump.
An executive order the president signed Thursday seeks to expand access to cheap insurance over state lines, a move Paul said he's been collaborating with Trump on for the last nine months. It comes after a string of legislative defeats in efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
"Today's a big day, Trump is doing what I believe is the biggest free-market reform of health care in a generation," Paul said at the signing. "I'm very glad to be a part of this and I really want to commend the president for having the boldness and the leadership and the foresight to get this done."
The order, among other things, directs the Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury departments to craft new regulations to expand the availability of association health plans to allow more employers to participate, according to USA TODAY.
Federal rules currently limit association health plans to small businesses with a "commonality of interest," USA TODAY reported. Trump asks the agencies to rewrite the rules to allow them to be larger and sell plans across state lines.
At an event in Louisville Wednesday, the senator hinted Trump would reinterpret an existing law that Trump "believes intended to allow these associations to be bigger and across state lines."
"I'll be at the White House tomorrow morning for a big announcement from the President, who I've been working with for about nine months on this idea of legalizing individuals to buy insurance across state lines through what are called health associations," Paul said.
Though Trump has publicly criticized the Kentucky senator in the past for not being a team player in recent Republican health care votes, he warmly acknowledged the senator during the executive order announcement.
"When you got Rand Paul on your side, it has to be positive," Trump said as he went to shake his hand.
The state's senior senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, issued a statement after the signing of the executive order: "Obamacare is failing and people across the country are hurting. I am pleased that the administration is looking for new ways to promote health insurance policies to better meet the needs of working families."
Some Obamacare supporters worry the changes made in the executive order will make alternatives to the ACA more available and attractive, possibly encouraging young, healthy consumers to pull out of state exchanges, where they currently help to subsidize older, sicker patients.
That could lead to even higher premiums for the Obamacare plans, USA TODAY reported.
"You'll have one part of the market that's offering garbage insurance at cut-rate prices and another part of the market that's very vulnerable to a death spiral," Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at Families USA, which supports the law, told USA TODAY.
Similarly, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, issued a statement warning of rising costs to people's insurance and criticizing the president's judgment.
"With one signature, President Trump is now jeopardizing the health security of millions of Americans," Yarmuth said in the statement. "The end result will be that costs for everyone else will soar, and ultimately, insurance markets that provide real coverage with real protections will collapse. Welcome to Trumpcare."
While the executive action is a "really, really big first step," Paul said he plans to continue pushing on the legislative front.
He said he hopes Trump's order will "show people that it's a benefit," particularly to members of the working class.