Congressional Democrats said Thursday that President Trump's executive order to relax insurance rules is the latest evidence of Republican "sabotage" against Obamacare.
The president signed the order that directs federal agencies to examine regulations that would make it easier for people to band together to get "association health plans" and buy more short-term insurance. Democrats quickly criticized the order as a back door to attack protections for people with pre-existing conditions and increase "junk" insurance plans.
"I do know it is a sabotage of the Affordable Care Act and quite frankly a disservice to the American people," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference Tuesday.
She also said Trump knows "very little about healthcare legislation."
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said the order is part of the sabotage effort since Congress failed "legislatively to replace Obamacare."
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a series of tweets that the order could create more "junk" insurance plans since it could lead to bypassing pre-existing condition protections on the individual market.
"It would allow cheap, low-quality plans onto the market that could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, seniors, women," he tweeted.
The order directs federal agencies to make it easier for small businesses to group together to form association health plans, with the idea that they could increase their purchasing power.
The order does not allow association health plans to market to individuals, but administration officials told reporters Thursday that the idea could be explored through rule-making. Some legal experts have said it may be difficult for individuals to sign up for association health plans that are created for businesses.
Plans sold on the individual market, which is used by people who don't have insurance through an employer or the government, must meet certain protections for pre-existing conditions, such as mandates that prevent insurers from charging those customers more. Republicans say the mandates have been the primary driver of rising premiums on the exchanges, which are set to increase by double-digits in many states next year.
Democrats warned that letting individuals buy association health plans would undermine those protections and lead to the collapse of the individual market.
"Similar proposals have drawn grave concerns from consumer groups, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and even insurance companies, who warn that this would lead to destabilization of the individual and small group market and cherry-picking of the healthiest customers by Association Health Plans," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.