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Executive order chips away at Obamacare

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Trump lifts some insurance restrictions, ends healthcare cost-sharing subsidies

WASHINGTON:  United States President Donald Trump fired his latest salvo against former president Barack Obama's signature healthcare reforms on Thursday, making it easier for insurers to sell low-cost plans that critics warn will also provide less quality coverage.

And in a new unilateral move, the White House announced that the administration will halt payments to insurers that are designed to help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage.

The White House argued that the Department of Health and Human Services had determined there is no appropriation for such cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Democratic leaders called this "a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage".

Earlier, after failing to repeal Obamacare outright through congressional legislation, Mr Trump issued an executive order that would deregulate parts of the insurance industry and strip back some restrictions on the coverage insurers can offer.

He said the measure will "increase competition, increase choice" and impact millions.

"This will cost the US government virtually nothing, and people will have great, great healthcare. And when I say people, I mean by the millions and millions. Seven years ago, congressional Democrats broke the American healthcare system by forcing the Obamacare nightmare onto the American people," he said.

But Democrats said Mr Trump's move amounted to "sabotaging the system" by creating a race to the bottom, including lifting restrictions that prevented insurance companies from barring coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

While Obamacare brought millions more Americans healthcare coverage, Republicans argue that it represents government meddling in the market. They also blame the seven-year-old law for a spike in premiums for millions who purchase insurance through the individual marketplaces.

Mr Trump's executive order will notably allow people to purchase healthcare plans across state lines, a move championed by conservatives as a market-based fix that will increase competition and drive down prices.

But the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), a health policy group, warned that the move could hamper efforts to stabilise Obamacare insurance markets.

"Instead, it would draw younger and healthier people away from the exchanges and drive additional plans out of the market", causing premiums to continue to increase and threatening coverage for millions, ACHP said.- AFP

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