President Donald Trump likely will announce some "big news" soon about action the White House can take concerning healthcare reform now that the latest plan coming before the Senate isn't coming to a vote this week, Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday.
"I believe President Trump can legalize, on his own, the ability of individuals to join a group or health association across state lines to buy insurance," the Kentucky Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, noting that the plan is one he himself has advocated for some time.
By allowing such purchases, it would bring "enormous leverage" to bringing down prices, while protecting individuals who "feel left out, hung out to dry."
People who purchase insurance individually are punished by the insurance industry if a family member gets sick, Paul said, but when people join in large groups, they get protection and lower prices.
When asked if he was suggesting Trump enact an executive order on healthcare, Paul explained that the ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] law passed in the 1970s allows corporations to purchase insurance across state lines.
"If my corporation is in 20 different states, I can already buy insurance across state lines," Paul said. "It's self-insured type of insurance, but it's the insurance people liked the most and it's had the least rise in premiums. It's about 30 percent of the market. It already exists."
Paul said he has spoken with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta about the measure and with Trump on "multiple occasions."
"They're enthusiastic about it, but I think Graham-Cassidy frankly distracted us," Paul said. "The good thing about my proposal, it costs zero dollars. I don't think people on the left are going to hate it. It basically is legalizing the ability of consumers to collectively come together to bargain for cheaper prices. We need to do this because the insurance companies have all the power. If you watched any of the debate recently over this, both left and right think insurance companies have too much power. How do we get power to the consumer? Let the consumer organize."
Paul said he is not concerned that the rule's passage would constitute an abandonment of the regular legislative order, as it would legalize the choice of consumers rather than reshaping the economy.
"With regard regular order, and should we talk about things together, yeah, I think there is room for that, and I think that part of the reason the country has been at such odds with each other is Democrats passed Obamacare with only Democrat votes," Paul said. "If Republicans undo it, we'll have the same sort of situation. And I also think that what I really objected to about this whole idea of Graham-Cassidy was it had nothing to do with repealing Obamacare."
Paul, though, said Congress will next take up tax reform rather than make another attempt at repealing Obamacare.
"After that, yes, we can readdress healthcare at any point in time," Paul said. "I think there will continue to be bipartisan hearings as well on this, and I think there are some ideas, like my idea of health associations, that we could actually pass laws to expand the definition as well."
Paul said he thinks his idea could gain bipartisan support, as it doesn't end Obamacare, but instead allows people to get cheaper insurance through group markets.
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