Jan 23, 2017 - Energy & Environment

Trump v Obamacare's individual mandate

Andrew Harnik / AP

President Trump's Friday night executive order may not do a lot in itself, but it sure looked like it was aimed at the individual mandate.

Sure enough: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested on Sunday that it was one of the main targets. When George Stephanopoulos asked her on ABC's This Week whether Trump would stop enforcing the mandate, Conway said "he may" — and that Trump wants to get rid of it "almost immediately."

So yes, Trump would like to stop enforcing it quickly — but how quickly can that actually happen?

The ever-helpful Timothy Jost notes that Trump still needs a new Health and Human Services secretary, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief, Treasury secretary, and IRS commissioner in place first—and possibly a new Labor Secretary. "In the long run a great deal may change, but we have known that since election night," he writes at the Health Affairs blog.

But as other experts told me for this piece, the biggest danger is that the executive order will create so much uncertainty in the individual market that insurers won't participate next year — right when the Trump administration needs them to keep playing so Obamacare customers won't lose their coverage. Robert Laszewski, a consultant who works with insurers, told The Washington Post it was like throwing a "bomb" into an "already shaky" insurance market.

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