The measures, which fall far short of a comprehensive proposal, come less than six weeks before the presidential election and serve as a political play to shore up concerns at a swing state event. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has already committed to making health care a focal point of the rest of his campaign, highlighting Trump’s actions to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and the unprecedented protections the law already provides for people with pre-existing conditions.
The President is also looking to shift attention away from criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 200,000 Americans have died from the virus over the past six months.
The first executive order will state that it’s US policy that people who suffer from pre-existing conditions will be protected, the President said. Any legislation Congress sends to his desk must include this provision, he said.
“We’re putting it down in a stamp, because our opponents, the Democrats, like to constantly talk about it and yet pre-existing conditions are much safer with us than they are with them,” Trump said. “And now we have it affirmed. This is affirmed, signed and done. So we can put that to rest.”
The President and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said they will safeguard these Americans, even as they try to tear down the Affordable Care Act that already protects them. In a call with reporters, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declined to specify how the administration would guarantee these protections if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark health reform law in a case it will consider this term.
The second executive order directs Congress to pass legislation to address surprise medical billing by the end of the year, and if lawmakers don’t achieve this, Azar will seek to do so via executive or regulatory action.
Trump already called for an end to the practice in a 2019 speech and in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree, legislation has been stymied by differing views on who should cover the tab — insurers or providers.
Though the President has repeatedly promised to roll out a health care proposal, the administration has decided to bill the wide variety of measures Trump has taken as his vision.
In his speech, Trump laid out what he calls his America First Healthcare Plan, which includes many measures his administration put forth during his first term — some of which have been enacted, but others that remain proposals or tied up in court. Among them: Broadening less-expensive alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, requiring hospitals to disclose prices they negotiate, reducing insulin costs for senior citizens and improving kidney health. He also noted that Americans insured through Medicare Advantage have seen premiums drop.
Trump also said that senior citizens will receive $200 cards in the coming weeks to help them purchase prescription medications.
A senior administration official told CNN the money will come in the form of discount cards for prescription drug copays.
The official said the cost for the cards will be offset by savings from Trump’s recent “favored nations” executive action, which calls for Medicare to test paying the same price for certain expensive prescription drugs that other developed countries do.
Funding for the cards will come from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a designated Medicare demonstration project.
Protecting those with pre-existing conditions
The Affordable Care Act’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions have proved among its most popular provisions. Democrats’ defense of the law helped them capture control of the House in 2018.
The protections include barring insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people based on their medical history — both common practices in the individual market prior to Obamacare. An estimated 54 million Americans — or 27% of non-elderly adults — have conditions that would have rendered them uninsurable under the old system, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The law also requires insurers to provide comprehensive benefits in the individual market and bans them from imposing annual or lifetime limits on coverage.
Though the President has said repeatedly that he will continue these protections, his actions say otherwise. The administration is largely backing a coalition of…