President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday his plans to allow small businesses and trade groups to more easily band together in order to obtain health coverage outside of the insurance markets established under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). These association health plans are a cheaper alternative to Obamacare, according to proponents. “For the first time ever, sole proprietors will be able to buy lower-cost group insurance instead of getting ripped off by this disaster we all know as Obamacare,” Trump said during a speech at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a group that has long opposed Obamacare. He also addressed his concern over criminals crossing the southwestern border of the country.

Democrats quickly pounced to denounce the move. “These plans weaken protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday. “No single group that represents physicians, patients, hospitals or nurses is supportive. Not one." Other Democrats have complained that the Trump administration has sought to “sabotage” the signature legislation that was passed during the Obama years. 

Consumer advocates had called on the Trump administration to mandate that association plans cover the same broad set of benefits as do Obamacare plans. However, the Labor Department rejected the suggestion. “In the wake of the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare, we are grateful to President Trump for addressing regulations that make it harder and costlier for small business owners to provide healthcare for themselves and their employees,” NFIB CEO Juanita Duggan declared in a statement.

While association health plans have been around for many years, the Trump administration is introducing a major change as to their operations by proposing self-employed individuals to enroll. The change will help people in non-traditional work arrangements in what has come to be known as the gig economy.

 

In the midst of his speech to business leaders about his healthcare initiative, President Trump addressed the focus on the part of many congressional Democrats and the media on the separation of some families that have crossed illegally the southwestern border of the United States. Directing himself to members of the media at the back of the room where he was delivering his speech, Trump said, “We don’t want people pouring into our country. We want them to come in through the process, through the legal system, and we want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit.” Trump said, “Keep in mind, those who apply for asylum legally at ports of entry are not prosecuted. The fake news media back there doesn’t talk about that.” He reiterated that he wants to promote immigration “based on merit.”

While members of the audience erupted in applause, Trump said, “They are fake. They are helping, they are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe. They know it, they know exactly what they’re doing, and it should be stopped.” 

The president concluded by airing his concerns about criminals infiltrating into the country by mixing in with asylum-seekers. “People that come in violate the law, they endanger their children in the process and frankly, they endanger all of our children. You see what happens with MS-13, where your sons and daughters are attacked violently. Kids that never even heard of such a thing are being attacked violently, not with guns, but with knives because it’s much more painful.” Trump said, “Inconceivable that we even have to talk about MS-13 and other gangs. They attack violently, the most painful way possible. And a bullet is too quick.” He concluded, saying “And we are allowing these people into our country? Not with me. We are taking them out by the thousands. We are taking them out by the thousands.”
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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