Trump approves Arkansas Medicaid work requirements

Arkansas on Monday became the third state to get the Trump administration’s permission to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved a Medicaid waiver that included a requirement for recipients to work, or participate in job training or job search activities for 80 hours a month.

State officials said they will begin implementing the work requirements June 1, making them the first state to do so. If a person fails to meet the requirements for three months, he or she will lose coverage for the rest of that calendar year.

However, the state did not get approval to roll back the eligibility level for Medicaid beneficiaries. If that provision had been approved, an estimated 60,000 people would have lost coverage.

Arkansas expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare to people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and receives federal funding to pay for those new enrollees. But Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) sought to restrict the program so that only people who are at the federal poverty level would be eligible.

The so-called “partial expansion” was a key test of the limits of the Trump administration’s power on how far states could go to limit Medicaid enrollment. Arkansas officials sought to reduce eligibility, while still getting the same level of federal funding.

[The Hill]

Reality

Work requirements don’t make more people work, because most recipients already work, they just throw them off benefits.

Trump Falsely Claims GOP Tax Bill ‘Repealed Obamacare’

The Republican tax-overhaul bill may have only ended the individual mandate aspect of Obamacare, but that won’t stop President Trump from gloating to his base that he “repealed” his predecessor’s signature legislation. “When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed,” the president told the press during a cabinet meeting. “Obamacare has been repealed in this bill.”

Contrary to his claim, however, the Affordable Care Act is still largely intact—from its Medicaid expansion to the insurance exchanges it set up to regulations on insurance companies, including those mandating coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Media

Trump Tells Republicans to Cut Taxes for the Rich, Like Trump

President Donald Trump pushed Republicans on Monday to cut taxes on the rich by using money that’s slated to help lower-income Americans purchase health insurance.

Trump’s request, which the president relayed by Twitter from his trip through Asia, comes at a sensitive moment in tax negotiations. It also goes against his repeated insistence that tax legislation should be focused on providing middle-class tax relief rather than cutting taxes for wealthy filers like himself.

At times, the president has even predicted that he would pay more under a GOP plan (Trump has not released his tax returns, but multiple provisions in the House and Senate bills appear likely to benefit his business and family).

The House and Senate have released competing bills, neither of which ends the individual Obamacare mandate to maintain insurance coverage or lowers the top rate nearly as far as the president requested on Monday.

In the case of the House bill, the top rate would stay at the current 39.6 percent but would apply it to a higher income threshold: For married couples, it would only kick in after the first $1,000,000 in income versus $470,000 now.

The Senate bill would lower the top rate to 38.5 percent and also have a $1,000,000 threshold for married filers.

Republicans have weighed repealing the individual mandate in recent weeks, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would free up $338 billion over 10 years for tax reform.

But the savings occur only because CBO predicts 13 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2027. It’s not clear whether that’s enough to reduce top rates to Trump’s desired levels or provide additional middle-class benefits.

In general, rich households already do well in analyses of the current tax plans thanks to provisions like ending the alternative minimum tax, reducing or repealing the estate tax, and cutting taxes for pass-through entities, all of which could potentially benefit Trump himself.

Under the new Senate bill, for example, the conservative Tax Foundation estimates the top 1 percent of taxpayers would see a 7.5 percent increase in after-tax income, versus less than 2 percent for the bottom 80 percent.

Democrats, who have spent weeks attacking the Republican tax bills as a boon to the rich, quickly seized on Trump’s remarks.

“Sooner or later, President Trump’s core supporters will realize that he’s selling them out,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “This proposal would send premiums for millions of Americans skyrocketing, all so that the wealthy can get an even bigger tax giveaway than they’d get under the original Republican plan.”

[NBC News]

Trump: I want to focus on North Korea not ‘fixing somebody’s back’

President Trump praised health care block grants on Saturday, saying they allow the states to focus on health care, but said he would rather focus his energy on tensions with North Korea than “fixing somebody’s back or their knee.”

“You know in theory, I want to focus on North Korea, I want to focus on Iran, I want to focus on other things. I don’t want to focus on fixing somebody’s back or their knee or something. Let the states do that,” the president told Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Huckabee.”

“The block grant concept is a very good concept, and if you have good management, good governors, good politicians in the state, it’ll be phenomenal,” he continued.
“I could almost say we are just about there in terms of the vote, so I expect to be getting health care approved,” he said.

Trump’s comments come after Senate Republicans failed twice this year to fulfill a seven-year campaign promise of repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

The latest repeal and replace failure was the Graham-Cassidy bill, which included block grants to states.

However, the legislation failed after Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Susan Collins (Maine) announced their opposition to the bill last month, effectively killing it.

Trump has expressed frustration in his Republican colleagues in the Senate for their health care failure, so much so that he called Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday to discuss the issue.

The move is likely to unsettle Republicans on Capitol Hill who have been working with Trump on tax reform in recent weeks.

[The Hill]

Trump Falsely Claims Americans With Pre-Existing Conditions Are Guaranteed Coverage Under New Health Bill

President Donald Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to assure Americans their latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) covers people with pre-existing conditions.

Both the president and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) is co-sponsoring the health care bill known as the “Graham-Cassidy plan,” took to Twitter to defend the legislation, expected to be up for a vote on the Senate floor next week. “I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great bill,” Trump wrote Wednesday night. “Repeal & Replace.”

Graham quoted the president’s tweet later Wednesday, adding that any claims his bill doesn’t cover those with pre-existing conditions should be called “#FakeNews on steroids!”

Unlike former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law, however, the new Republican bill would not guarantee coverage for people living with pre-existing conditions. Instead, the Graham-Cassidy plan would disproportionately harm sick people and Americans living with a variety of medical factors, who could see their insurance costs soar if the legislation were to pass.

The bill would allow states to opt to waive Obamacare rules requiring basic health benefits, essentially cutting protections for sick people in an effort to keep premiums from rising. The waivers allow states to charge more for health insurance offered to people with pre-existing conditions—including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s (or dementia), cerebral palsy and even pregnancy, among other medical factors that could have resulted in denied coverage prior to Obamacare—while continuing to receive federal block grant funding.

Experts say the bill could raise health care costs for those with pre-existing conditions to a point where insurance would be virtually unaffordable for millions of people.

The Graham-Cassidy plan would allow states to more easily gut protections for sick people than the previous Senate bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, as well as the House’s failed effort, the American Health Care Act. The earlier Senate bill would have let states request a reduction from the federal government in what was considered “essential health benefits,” while the House bill would have allowed states to charge more for people living with certain pre-existing conditions when searching for insurance.

The new bill—seen by House Majority Leader Paul Ryan as “our best, last chance” to repeal Obamacare—has received criticism from the even health care industry, which said it would damage existing benefits and do little to reduce insurance premiums that continue to tick upward for millions of Americans.

“The Graham-Cassidy plan would take health insurance coverage away from millions of people, eliminate critical public health funding, devastate the Medicaid program, increase out-of-pocket costs and weaken or eliminate protections for people living with pre-existing conditions,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Democrats are warning that if a sudden vote on the legislation is held before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) can issue a full report on it, there could be serious implications for years to come.

“Thus far, every version of Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace the ACA has meant higher health costs, millions of hard-working Americans pushed off coverage, and key protections gutted with devastating consequences for those with pre-existing conditions,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter Monday to CBO Director Keith Hall. “A comprehensive CBO analysis is essential before Republicans force a hasty, dangerous vote on what is an extreme and destructive repeal bill.”

So, while those with pre-existing conditions wouldn’t have their insurance suddenly ripped away, the Graham-Cassidy plan could make it increasingly difficult for sick Americans to afford any insurance at all. Until the CBO is able to fully assess the latest Republican-led attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system, the bill’s total impact will remain unknown.

[Newsweek]

Reality

The key section lies in the bill’s rules for state waivers from many regulations in the Affordable Care Act (starting at page 8 in the bill.) If a state says it “intends to maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions,” then it can allow insurance companies to charge sick people more than healthy ones.

Trump Just Picked a Dumb Fight with Mitch McConnell

Even as the Trump White House continues to calibrate the right response to the news that North Korea may have miniaturized a nuclear weapon, President Donald Trump started a very public fight with the most powerful Republican in the Senate.

“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”

That Trump tweet came just hours after this one from White House social media director — and Trump confidant — Dan Scavino Jr.: “More excuses. @SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years – in addition to the 7 years — to repeal and replace Obamacare…”

Scavino added a link to his tweet of a video of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking at an event in Kentucky on Tuesday — which is what started this all up.

“Our new President, of course, has not been in this line of work before,” said McConnell, according to a local CNN affiliate, which covered the event. “I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
McConnell’s criticism — Trump is a newbie in politics and doesn’t totally get that things move incrementally even in the best of times — seems relatively mild especially compared to Scavino’s response. It’s also a criticism that plenty of Democrats leveled at then-President Barack Obama in the early days of his presidency.

The simple fact is that McConnell was always skeptical that there were 50 votes for any sort of health care overhaul. It’s why he tried to fast-walk the legislation before the July 4 congressional recess so he could move on to tax reform, where he’s said there’s more opportunity for a win.

But, even after McConnell was forced to delay that vote, he continued to push for passage of some sort of health care bill — ultimately coming up a single vote short. It was a swing and miss to be sure, but not, as far as I can tell, as a result of anything McConnell left on the field — which is the clear implication in Trump and Scavino’s tweets.
Beyond the overreaction, what baffles me is whether Trump did this in a fit of pique or whether there was some sort of intentionality or strategy behind it. For the life of me, I can’t figure that one out.

Remember that for everything that Trump wants going forward — tax reform, funding for the border wall, maybe even another shot at health care — he needs McConnell. Badly.  And despite the health care setback, McConnell still inspires considerable loyalty among his colleagues.

Picking a fight with someone: a) you need to get things done and b) people look up to, seems to me to be the essence of playing dumb politics. Maybe Trump (and Scavino) have some sort of grand plan here I don’t see. Always possible! But from where I sit, this was a needless fight to pick that could have decidedly negative consequences on the Trump’s agenda in the future.

[CNN]

Trump Mindlessly Tweets Fox & Friends Report That Blames Him for Obamacare Premium Hikes

President Donald Trump promoted a Fox News article that suggests he is responsible for Obamacare premium hikes.

At 4:40 a.m. ET on Thursday, Trump shared a tweet from his favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, that warned Obamacare premiums would be rising.

But the article concluded by suggesting that the president was at fault for the premium hikes because he had threatened to withhold payments from insurers.

The Journal reported that insurers are concerned about Trump’s threat to halt payments to the industry that in turn help bring down costs, as well as whether Republicans will continue to enforce the individual mandate to buy insurance.

According to the Journal, one insurer in Montana linked the bulk of its proposed 23 percent increase to those two concerns.

[Raw Story]

Trump Says GOP Senators ‘Look Like Fools’ Over Health Care Loss, Calls for Scrapping Filibuster

After his party’s stinging defeat over health care legislation, President Trump tweeted Saturday that the Republicans in the Senate “look like fools” and should do away with the filibuster, even though scrapping a 60-vote requirement would still not have saved the doomed bill.

The president’s morning tweetstorm comes barely a day and a half after Republicans in the Senate failed to muster even the 50 votes needed to pass a “skinny” bill to repeal key parts of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act.

The narrowly written bill was crafted under the budget reconciliation rules specifically to avoid requiring a 60-vote threshold, but it still failed to win even 50 votes, despite Republican control of the chamber 52 to 48.

Three Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, voted “no,” joining the solid 48-vote Democratic bloc to scuttle the legislation.

On Saturday, Trump charged, however, that eight Democrats “totally control the U.S. Senate” and that many great Republican bills would fail under the current rules.
“Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time….” the president wrote in one of four tweets.

In fact, the Republicans really needed only 50 votes in the health care debate because Vice President Pence could have provided a tie-breaker.

“Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!” the president tweeted at 7:20 a.m.

Nineteen minutes later, he hammered away at the same theme: “The very outdated filibuster rule must go. Budget reconciliation is killing R’s in Senate. Mitch M, go to 51 Votes NOW and WIN. IT’S TIME!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while scrapping the filibuster for judicial appointments and the Supreme Court, has so far made it clear that he does not support doing away with the filibuster for most legislation.

One key reason: It would offer his party leverage if and when they should fall into the minority in the future.

Trump’s current views on the filibuster is in sharp contrast to a tweet from 2013, when he blasted then Majority leader Harry Reid for scrapping the filibuster for presidential appointments below the Supreme Court level. At that time, Trump tweeted: “Thomas Jefferson wrote the Senate filibuster rule. Harry Reid & Obama killed it yesterday. Rule was in effect for over 200 years.”

[USA Today]

Trump Accuses Ex-FBI Director Comey of ‘Crimes’ and Calls for Him to Be Investigated By a ‘Special Council’

President Donald Trump continued a Twitter flurry Saturday morning by accusing former FBI Director James Comey of “crimes” and demanding to know why Attorney General Jeff Sessions or a “special council” have not investigated him.

Starting bright and early Saturday morning, Trump has furiously tweeted — ten times in 2 hours — on a variety of subjects from Hillary Clinton to Obamacare.

“So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council [sic] looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted?” Trump tweeted before defending his son, Donald Trump Jr. over his emails, writing: “My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!”

You can see those tweets and quite a few more below:

[Raw Story]

Reality

Donald Trump demanding investigations of his political rivals and those in law enforcement who investigated him screams that he is completely innocent.

Let’s step through each claim:

Donald Trump Jr. openly gave emails

Trump’s eldest son released the emails just minutes before The New York Times published a report detailing the contents of the emails, which show that Trump Jr. was told before the meeting that the information about Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign.

Democrats are obstructionists

No, one of the parties has an idea for healthcare for this country, Democrats, and they passed it and it is called the Affordable Care Act. Republicans only want to take it away.

And just the previous week, ten Democrats put forth a plan to mend the ACA that did not involve removing 22 million Americans from healthcare coverage.

Republicans, on the other hand, made obstructionism their party identity for 8 years during the Obama Administration.

Hillary Clinton sold Russia Uranium

Clinton did not sell a uranium mine to Russia, she was Secretary of the State Department when they and, this is important, 9 total agencies signed-off on a sale of an energy company to a Canadian-based Russian subsidiary. Again, very important, she didn’t have the power to approve or reject the deal.

Hillary Clinton acid washed 33,000 emails

You can’t “acid wash” emails, that’s not a thing.

Trump Endorses Repeal-First Strategy if Health Care Deal Not Reached

As Senate negotiations continue over the stalled Republican health care bill, President Donald Trump Friday morning called on senators to pass a simple repeal of Obamacare now and focus on replacing it later this year if no deal is reached.

Trump’s tweet came just after Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., sent a letter to the White House urging the president to support a repeal-first, replace-later strategy if there is no agreement by the time senators return from their week-long Fourth of July recess on July 10.

The idea has been floated by some Republicans since a planned Senate vote on the GOP Better Care Reconciliation Act was postponed Tuesday because leaders were unable to secure the 50 GOP votes needed to pass it.

Sasse has been working quietly with the White House on the idea, according to a Senate Republican aide who said the administration was receptive to the idea.

“You campaigned and won on the repeal of Obamacare. So did every Republican senator. We should keep our word,” Sasse wrote in the letter.

“On the current path, it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that attempts to prop up much of the crumbling Obamacare structures,” he added. We can and must do better than either of these — both because the American people deserve better, and because we promised better.”

Sasse also asked the president to call on Congress to cancel its scheduled month-long August recess to work on a replacement bill for a Labor Day vote. “After we gave our word to repeal and replace Obamacare’s monstrosity,” he said, “we should not go back to our states during August as the American people struggle under fewer choices and skyrocketing costs. We should remain in D.C. at work.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has publicly been advocating starting the idea of starting with a full Obamacare repeal publicly for two weeks, quickly retweeted the president and added his support.

Sasse has kept a low profile throughout the negotiations on health care, refusing to comment or publicly engage on the bill.

The idea was considered by Republican leaders at the beginning of this year when Trump took office but it was quickly dropped when they realized it would be too politically difficult to replace Obamacare outside the reconciliation process where the Senate would need the support of Democrats to pass a replacement.

Senate Republicans continue to discuss a way forward in the health care bill, considering changes to appear both moderates and conservatives to get the support of 50 of 52 Republicans.

[NBC News]

 

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