In new rule, Trump tries to deliver a health care promise


WASHINGTON (AP) — Striving to fulfill a campaign promise, the Trump administration today moved to facilitate the interstate sale of health insurance policies that cost less but may not cover as much.

The proposed regulation from the Labor Department would provide more health-insurance options for self-employed people and small businesses, but its success depends on buy-in from insurers, state regulators, plan sponsors and consumers themselves. Some groups already have concerns.

Don't look for revolutionary changes, said analyst Elizabeth Carpenter of the health industry consultancy Avalere Health. "The impact on the markets and on consumers really may depend on whether it is easy enough for the groups potentially affected to take advantage of the rule," she said.

No sweeping consequences are seen for the more than 170 million Americans with employer-sponsored coverage, or the nearly 30 million still uninsured.

The complex proposal aims to deliver on President Donald Trump's long-standing pledge to increase competition and lower costs by promoting the sale of health plans across state lines. Unable to repeal the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, the administration is pursuing regulations to change the marketplace.

The new rule would make it easier for groups, or associations, to sponsor health plans that don't have to meet all consumer protection and benefit requirements of the Obama law. Those requirements improve coverage, but also raise premiums.

Insurance industry groups are skeptical of Trump's idea, saying it could undermine the current state markets. Patient groups are concerned about losing protections. Some state regulators object to federal interference.

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