Shortly after being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president—sometime between the inauguration and the dances that followed—President Trump swung by his new office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to hang the drapes and sign a few executive orders. Among them was one instructing federal regulators to take steps to ease the burdens of Obamacare.
The order left health policy experts scratching their heads. It’s pretty vague and is definitely open to interpretation, and today people are wondering whether it was merely symbolic in nature or if it could be the beginning of the end for the ACA.
I won’t pretend to have the answers, but I do believe that the move is a clear indication that Trump intends to keep his promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Certainly the executive order won’t be enough since there’s only so much that regulators can do, but it also won’t be long until a bill makes its way to his desk that’s a little more clear about the parts of the ACA that are getting the axe. Yes, it’ll be difficult to repeal the entire law without Democratic support, but killing a few of the less popular provisions should be pretty easy.
In the meantime, the executive order apparently allows regulators to selectively enforce the ACA—the same thing that the Republican congress sued President Obama for doing when he postponed the employer mandate. Whether this means dragging their feet on employer or individual shared responsibility penalties, letting employers skip their annual reporting requirements, or something else remains to be seen.
This is going to be an interesting four years, and the craziness has already begun.