(CBS News) President Trump on Friday announced he is "starting that process" of repealing and replacing Obamacare with his executive order to unilaterally change some aspects of health insurance coverage.
President Trump, surrounded by top administration officials, business leaders and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, in the White House Roosevelt Room, praised his executive order as a step towards repealing and replacing his predecessor's signature health care law. The president, stuck with a Republican-led Congress that hasn't passed a bill to undo Obamacare, announced earlier this week that he is resorting to his "pen" instead.
President Trump began to walk out of the room Friday without signing the order, until Vice President Mike Pence reminded him to, used that pen on Friday.
"We've been hearing about the disaster of Obamacare for so long -- in my case, many years, most of it outside in civilian life," President Trump said. "And for a long period of time since I've started running and since I became president of the United States, I just keep hearing 'repeal and replace, repeal and replace.' Well, we're starting that process, and we're starting it in a very positive manner."
The president said the order will cost the federal government "virtually nothing," and will force insurance companies to start "fighting" to sign people up for care.
"But the competition will be staggering," President Trump said. "Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up, and you will be hopefully negotiating, negotiating, negotiating, and you'll get such low prices for such great care."
President Trump didn't back down from his goal of repealing Obamacare and fulfilling a signature campaign promise, despite the GOP-led Congress' inability to agree on how to do that. Mr. Trump said he will "pressure" Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, "once and for all."
"Well, this is promoting healthcare choice and competition all across the United States," the president said. "This is going to be something that millions and millions of people will be signing up for, and they're going to be very happy. This will be great health care."
The president's executive order is intended to make lower-premium plans more widely available. President Trump has long talked about his desire to make health insurance plans available across state lines. His order directs Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to consider expanding access to association health plans, which could possibly allow American employers to form groups across state lines, according to the White House. The order could also allow employers in the same line of work to join together to offer health care to employees, no matter their state. The president's order, according to the White House, also directs the Labor Department, Treasury Department, and Health and Human Services Department to consider expanding coverage for short-term, limited duration plans that could be made available to people in specific circumstances, like if a person loses his job or misses the open enrollment deadline.
But the president's executive order is likely to face backlash from medical groups, and could very well face a legal challenge.
Former President Barack Obama was criticized heavily by Republicans in 2014 when he said, I've got a pen and I've got a phone," a nod to his intention to use executive action when Congress wouldn't cooperate.