Monday, June 18, 2018
Politics

Deal doubtful on new GOP health plan; could raise premiums

WASHINGTON — The latest Republican health care idea could mean going back to a time when people with medical problems were charged much higher premiums for individual policies, experts say, as a quick deal among Republicans moved farther out of reach Wednesday.

Conservatives dialed up criticism of moderates for standing in the way. A White House official said progress is being made and all sides are talking, but offered no timetable for a handshake that would allow stalled Republican legislation to advance.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said it's increasingly looking like there won't be a deal before Congress breaks for a two-week recess. Already in jeopardy, the GOP drive to repeal Obamacare could get more complicated.

"I've heard nothing of substance at this point that would break the logjam," Sanford said.

The new idea roughed out in negotiations between the White House and leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus would allow states to seek waivers of two requirements in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. One, known as community rating, forbids insurers from charging higher premiums on account of people's medical problems or pre-existing conditions. The other is the essential health benefits provision that spells out categories of benefits all insurance plans must cover.

Conservatives who want the federal government out of health care argue that those provisions have driven up premiums and decreased choice. The idea is to put states back in charge of insurance rules, reasoning that that would increase the availability of plans with lower premiums, attractive to younger, healthier customers.

But health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski said it would also open a "back door" to a system where the sick can get priced out of coverage.

"It's hard for me to believe that any state would take us back ... when it comes to the protections that consumers have for pre-existing conditions," Laszewski said. "There is no doubt that Obamacare as a system is not working very well, but nobody wants to go backward."

Republicans say their bill includes a fallback option for people with health problems. It would create a $100 billion fund that states can use for a variety of purposes, including high-risk insurance pools where people with medical problems can get coverage.

But Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said those didn't work well in the past. Patients tended to be very sick, and premiums were often too expensive.

"There would be real challenges for people with illnesses to get affordable coverage," Riley said. "You will get guaranteed access to coverage, but you won't be able to afford it." Her nonpartisan organization offers policy advice to states.

A former Obama administration insurance regulator said it's likely that the companies would press states to seek waivers under the latest Republican idea. That's because the broader GOP legislation would repeal unpopular ACA penalties on people who don't get covered, a move that insurers fear would let people postpone getting coverage until they are sick.

"Insurers are going to want some other filter to keep out people," said Karen Pollitz, an expert on individual health insurance, now with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Trump administration officials and leading GOP legislators said they are not giving up trying to find common ground between conservatives and moderates. A late Tuesday meeting at the Capitol involving Vice President Mike Pence and about two dozen lawmakers produced no agreement, but White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said there was progress because both sides were "in the same room talking through the same issues."

Democrats were dismissive. "It's as if the president and Paul Ryan went to some of the Republicans and the Freedom Caucus and said, 'We can make this worse,'" Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois said. "Now, let's remember that only 17 percent of the people in the United States approved of the last version."

Ryan's office, however, seemed to be keeping arms-length from the negotiations. Congress leaves town in days for a two-week recess, when lawmakers could face antagonistic grilling from voters at town hall meetings and the entire GOP drive might lose momentum.

Some conservatives said it might be good for lawmakers to go home and get an earful from constituents. Michael Needham, CEO of the advocacy group Heritage Action, accused House moderates of "intransigence" and said they "clearly want to keep Obamacare in place."

But a poll released earlier this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation offered reinforcement for lawmakers reluctant to forge ahead. It showed that 3 in 4 Americans want the Trump administration to make the law work. About 2 in 3 said they were glad the House GOP bill didn't pass last month. But people split evenly between wanting to keep or repeal the statute.

Comments
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Updated: 12 hours ago
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

TAMPA ó June 16 will mark a year since President Trump announced a tougher Cuba travel policy, but unlike in much of the nation, the changes donít seem to have hurt local bookings to the island.The number of people traveling between Tampa and Havana ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

SINGAPORE - President Donald Trump arrived here Sunday night ahead of a potentially historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first meeting between the leaders of two countries that have been sworn enemies for almost seven decades.Air...
Published: 06/11/18