Delaware Democrats say state will be hurt by Trump’s latest Obamacare directive

DOVER — Delaware’s elected leaders — all Democrats — panned President Trump’s Thursday executive order changing several tenets of the Affordable Care Act.

The White House said the order is designed “to take the first steps to expand choices and alternatives to Obamacare plans and increase competition to bring down costs for consumers.”

But Delaware’s officials disagree.

“The Trump Administration knows exactly what could be done to stabilize the marketplaces and keep affordable health coverage within reach for millions of Americans,” U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement. “Instead, the president has chosen to do just the opposite. Cutting cost-sharing reduction payments is just one example of his continued efforts to take heath care away from the most vulnerable among us.”

The decree instructs the Department of Labor to look into allowing employers to join together and buy plans across state lines. It also directs several government agencies to consider expanding short-term plans, which are cheaper but may not offer as much coverage.

Sen. Carper said on Twitter the executive order introduces “many unknowns” and “will make premiums soar.” It is an example, he said, of “scorched-earth tactics” and attempts to “sabotage” the ACA.

Delaware’s open enrollment period to sign up for a health care plan through the ACA begins Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro announced last week there will be a 25 percent increase next year for Delawareans who have Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware plans through the ACA.

Highmark is the only ACA insurer in Delaware, with Aetna having withdrawn in May.

“President Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reductions will hurt thousands of low-income Delawareans who use those subsidies to make their health insurance and health care affordable,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “Less than three weeks away from the start of open enrollment on Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace, the president’s action will lead to thousands of Delawareans deciding that health insurance is no longer affordable for them and their families.

“That will lead to more people being uninsured in our state, which eventually means increased premiums for all of us. Ultimately, these changes could lead to insurers deciding to leave the Delaware market. That’s bad for health care in Delaware, bad for the health of Delawareans and bad for the economy of our state.”

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said the executive order came about because of Congress’ inability to repeal the ACA.

“So, since the big bill didn’t pass, and we probably won’t have a health care bill until, say, the spring, this was a way to take care of as many Americans as he could legally with an executive order,” he told reporters at a press briefing.

The latest efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal the ACA failed last month after the Senate majority fell short of 50 votes.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware’s junior member of the Senate, said in a statement the president should “encourage and support bipartisan efforts in Congress to improve health care for all Americans.”

But while Democrats blasted the presidential edict, Republicans embraced it.

“It will also level the playing field between big and small businesses by allowing small businesses to pool together in Association Health Plans that could be sold across state lines,” U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a doctor who represents Maryland’s Eastern Shore, said in a statement. “This reform was long overdue.”

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