What you heard:
President Trump signed an executive order that could gut the individual mandate.
What it is:
An executive order stems from the “grant of executive power” given to a president by the Constitution. Presidents use it to bypass Congress, which can’t overturn an e-order but CAN pass a law to cut federal funding for implementation. BUT, before you get excited, remember that the President has veto power over that law. E-orders also hold up in court fairly well, historically speaking. So, pretty much your only hope for getting rid of a terrible one is counting on the next administration to reverse it.
The individual mandate is a major part of the Affordable Care Act (which you probably know better as “Obamacare”. Or “Barrycare”, as I like to call it). Fun fact: Republicans loved the individual mandate when Mitt Romney first put it into action in Massachusetts. Basically, it requires that everyone have health insurance – so if you don’t get that through your employer, you have to purchase individual coverage on the market. If you don’t have insurance, you face a penalty (but there are waivers available to those who can prove they really can’t afford it).
What it means:
The e-order that #45 signed states that the executive branch will “take all actions consistent with law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act.” While we can’t be totally positive about what the administration will do with this sweeping power it’s just given itself, it’s not a bad bet to say that they’re teeing up to repeal the individual mandate by saying it places an undue economic burden on those who have to purchase individual health insurance. Strangely enough, they are silent re: the economic burden of requiring all drivers to have car insurance.
What could happen:
If the individual mandate is repealed, not everyone will buy insurance on the market. Young, healthy people are less likely to purchase insurance, so the pool of people that insurance companies are covering will be older and sicker and therefore more expensive to insure. Without healthy people paying into the pool, insurance companies will lose money. Companies are, naturally, opposed to this scenario, so they will preemptively raise health insurance premiums.
So if, say, a completely ignorant baboon is elected president and crashes the economy, causing you to lose your job + benefits (I’m sorry, future you), you’ll need to purchase individual health insurance or go without. Since you are a forward-thinking individual and not a baboon, you know it’s better to get covered so you can keep your birth control now and not have to pay $100k out of pocket to birth a baby later.
When you go to purchase insurance, your rates will be exceedingly high. Maybe so high you can’t even afford them, having just lost your job and all, and you have no choice but to cross your fingers and hope that the condom doesn’t break.