Washington, D.C. – Today, Donald Trump issued an executive order attacking key consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for people buying health insurance on the small business and individual markets. The order directs federal agencies to implement disruptive changes to the ACA designed to push younger, healthier people into unregulated “junk” insurance, raise the costs of comprehensive coverage, and reimpose employment barriers to women in the small business workforce. The NWHN opposes both the order and the broader push by the Trump administration to sow chaos in ACA markets.
Like proposals pushed by congressional Republicans this summer, the Trump order, if implemented, would flood individual insurance markets with junk plans. These plans would be free to discriminate against women and people with pre-existing conditions, exclude essential health benefits like maternity or mental health care, charge limitless out-of-pocket expenses, and include annual and lifetime coverage caps. And they would no longer be required to spend the premiums they collect on actually providing care. In July, insurance companies warned that a similar proposal would allow “plans to ‘cherry pick’ only healthy people from the existing market, making coverage unaffordable for the millions of people who need or want comprehensive coverage.”
“Make no mistake, this is a direct attack on protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” said Executive Director Cindy Pearson, “and it will make insurance more expensive for women.”
A second part of today’s order would also exempt association health plans for small businesses from a host of ACA consumer protections. Small businesses with the youngest, healthiest people would face strong incentives to exit the ACA’s small business marketplaces and buy cheaper, skimpier association plans, raising prices for all of the small businesses that remained.
One under-discussed impact of the pre-ACA small business insurance market was how the widespread practice of charging women higher premiums than men for the same plan depressed employment opportunities for women. Pre-ACA, a small business considering a highly qualified female candidate and a less qualified male candidate faced strong financial incentives to pick the male candidate simply because it would mean lower insurance premiums. Under the Trump proposal, insurance companies offering association health plans would be free to discriminate, rewarding firms that discriminate against women and older people.
“The Trump proposal would take us backward and reinstate barriers to hiring women,” Pearson continued, “particularly hurting older women or those with pre-existing conditions.”
The National Women’s Health Network has worked alongside coalition allies and members of Congress for years to protect and expand access to essential health care, ensuring preventive services like birth control, prenatal care and well-woman visits were covered under the Affordable Care Act. For more information about NWHN’s work to ensure universal access to health care that meets the needs of diverse women, visit our website: nwhn.org/raisingwomensvoices
The National Women’s Health Network is supported by our members and by choice we do not accept financial support from drug companies or medical device manufacturers. We bring the voices, concerns, and needs of women consumers to policy and regulatory tables.