With his ObamaCare repeal repeatedly foiled in Congress, President Trump vowed to use the "power of the pen" to change things instead. On Thursday, he began the process by signing an executive order designed to loosen the rules on how individuals can buy insurance, reports the New York Times. Essentially, small businesses and perhaps even individuals would have greater flexibility to band together in "association health plans" that would offer cheaper, less comprehensive coverage than plans in the ObamaCare exchanges, reports the Wall Street Journal. The plans might even cross state lines. "This is going to be something that millions and millions of people will be signing up for," the president said, per Fox News, "and they're going to be very happy. This will be great health care."
Critics say the move could fundamentally undermine ObamaCare if healthy individuals opt for these plans, leaving behind a less healthy group of people who want broad coverage and who would likely then see higher premiums. "By siphoning off healthy individuals, these junk plans could cannibalize the insurance exchanges," says an official with the liberal Center for American Progress. Trump's order directs three Cabinet agencies to work out the details, which might include offering cheaper short-term policies as well. Legal challenges are all but certain, reports Reuters. The idea of expanding the definition of "associations" so that individuals could join a plan not run by their employer may run afoul of a federal law called the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. "The 'E' in ERISA is 'employee,'" says one health-care analyst.