David Rodeck

How Health Care Policy Can Change Through an Executive Order

The rules for health care are usually changed by Congress when they pass new laws. However, the President does have some leeway to adjust health care policy through an executive order. Below, we look at how an executive order works, as well as recent executive orders that have impacted health care.

Executive Order Versus Laws

Congress is in charge of passing laws, whereas the President and the executive branch are in charge of enforcing laws. Laws are enforced by different agencies like the EPA, the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services.

With an executive order, the President instructs the executive branch on how to enforce a law. Compared to a new law, it is much easier to pass an executive order. The President just needs to design one and sign it before it goes into effect. Passing a law is a much longer process because both U.S. Chambers of Congress need to vote on the law and then it needs to be approved by the President.

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Limits on Executive Orders

The President must work within existing laws with an executive order. While the President has some room to interpret the laws, they cannot pass an order that creates new laws or goes against existing laws.

The President cannot authorize new spending with an order. They can only tell agencies how to budget their existing funding. If Congress is not happy with an order, they can vote to block funding for it. The Supreme Court could also vote to overturn an order.

How Executive Orders Can Change Health Care

Executive orders can adjust how existing healthcare laws are followed. For example, the ACA has an open enrollment period every year where people are allowed to sign up for new plans. With an executive order, the President could lengthen or shorten the open enrollment period. They can also tighten or loosen restrictions for enforcing health care laws. For example, they could allow more types of plans to meet the ACA coverage requirements, like short-term plans not purchased on the ACA-exchanges.

Finally, they can use orders to direct agencies to use their funds for different priorities, like ordering the VA to spend more money on mental health care.

How They Can’t Change Health Care

Executive orders have to work within existing health care laws and cannot remove them altogether. For example, while they can shorten or lengthen the open enrollment period for signing up, they couldn’t get rid of the ACA open enrollment period. While the President can increase the number of plans that meet the ACA coverage requirement, they cannot remove the requirement that people have health insurance.

Finally, the President cannot create more funding for health care goals with an executive order. If the President orders the VA to spend more of its budget on mental health, that money will need to be redirected from other VA spending. Only Congress can increase the VA’s budget.

While executive orders cannot completely reshape health care policy, they can still create significant changes. Readers should track executive orders as well as new laws as they plan their health insurance coverage.

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