Just hours after taking the presidential oath of office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reiterating his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and instructing executive departments and agencies to slow the implementation of Obamacare while Congress works on a possible repeal of the law.
The order, titled “Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” was signed on January 20, 2017. It states Trump’s intention to “seek the prompt repeal” of ACA and devolve the federal government’s power over health care to the states.
The Trump administration will “take all actions consistent with law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act, and prepare to afford the States more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market,” Section 1 of the executive order states.
Executive departments and agencies shall “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of” ACA components imposing fiscal or regulatory burdens on patients, providers, insurers, or states, according to Section 2.
All six sections emphasize the responsibility of the executive branch to comply with existing law while implementing the order.
Setting Executive Priorities
Josh Blackman, an associate professor of law at South Texas College of Law in Houston, specializes in constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court and has written two books on Obamacare. Blackman says Trump’s immediate action against ACA exceeded expectations.
“President Trump was expected to take some executive action with respect to the ACA, but it is striking that he did so his first day in office,” Blackman said.
Trump’s order alerts his administration to his policy objectives, Blackman says.
“The executive order, by itself, does not actually change policy,” Blackman said. “Rather, it instructs his cabinet secretary to implement his new priorities.”
Nicholas Bagley, a writer for the Yale Journal on Regulation blog, Notice & Comment, says Trump’s executive orders are powerful communication tools.
“Executive orders can be central to Trump’s communications strategy even if they lack legal significance,” Bagley wrote on January 13. “Still, that’s all they are: a communications strategy.”
David Catron, a contributor at The American Spectator, says Trump’s administration has the authority to undo several ACA regulations imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“Many regulations that HHS and CMS have imposed [were] concocted out of thin air by the bureaucrats,” Catron said. “Thus, they can be eliminated by executive order, or by a regulatory fiat from the HHS secretary.”
Blackman says Trump can use the same executive powers by which the Obama administration implemented ACA to disable and essentially repeal it.
“The order suggests that the president will use the full weight of the executive branch to support his agenda and, in particular, utilize all of the precedents set by the Obama administration in pursuit of those goals,” Blackman said.
Specific instructions elaborating on Trump’s executive order will come from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Blackman says.
“Price will begin to issue rules and policies that relax the burdens imposed by the ACA’s individual, employer, and contraceptive mandates,” Blackman said.
Emma Vinton ([email protected]) writes from Troy, Michigan.
Michael T. Hamilton, “Trump Signaled Rule of Law Is Still King with Obamacare Order,” The Hill, February 1, 2017: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/317163-trump-signaled-law-is-still-king-with-obamacare-executive-order
“Freedom Rising Under President Trump,” Heartland.org, The Heartland Institute, February 2017: https://heartland.org/topics/government-politics/trump-action-plan/Trump-Freedom-Rising
Michael T. Hamilton, “Josh Blackman: Obamacare Unravels with Executive Power’s Abuses Against Constitution,” Health Care News Podcast, The Heartland Institute, November 9, 2017: https://heartland.org/multimedia/podcasts/josh-blackman-obamacare-unravels-with-executive-powers-abuses-against-constitution.
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