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Trump slams McConnell for failing to repeal Obamacare: That truce sure didn’t last long. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House released statements on Wednesday night meant to emphasize unity and shared goals ahead of Congress’s return to Washington, President Trump opened fire on McConnell in a series of tweets Thursday morning. First, he criticized McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan for failing to attach a debt ceiling hike to a VA bill, then he assailed McConnell on healthcare. “The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed! That should NEVER have happened,” he tweeted. The frosty relationship is likely to make it difficult enough for Republicans to get on the same page on must-pass legislation such as raising the debt ceiling and keeping the government funded. But it makes the bigger policy goals -- such as tax reform or any effort to revive healthcare legislation -- all the more difficult to pull off. McConnell, publicly, is doing his best to underplay the tensions. The leader mostly praised Trump at a breakfast in Kentucky Thursday, only slightly criticizing Trump on his trade talk, according to CNN. The breakfast came around the same time as Trump’s Twitter broadsides against McConnell. Trump and McConnell are scheduled meet in early September as the Senate returns from recess.
Congressional aides preview healthcare priorities. Areas of political disagreement between Democrats and Republicans became apparent Thursday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Alliance for Health Care Policy. So how will the debate over stabilizing the Obamacare exchanges play out? “It’s going to play out perfectly,” joked one Democratic Senate aide, who said a deadline to come up with a plan by mid-September was a “reasonable goal.” Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies that help insurers reduce out-of-pocket medical costs for low-income customers will be a priority, but whether Democrats and Republicans will agree on how long they need to be funded is not clear. One House Republican aide said it was “great to see House and Senate Democrats appropriate cost-sharing reduction subsidies.” A Democratic House aide quickly jumped in to respond to the GOP aide’s comment, saying, “In theory there is no need for Congress to do anything [on CSRs]. But if needed we can provide a technical fix … I think if we were in charge we would say, ‘We’re cool here.’” Republicans also are hoping that discussions on Obamacare will include more flexibility for states, a proposal that Senate Democrats appear open to having conversations about. “We think we can have productive discussions about market stabilization and some of the state flexibility idea without getting into ideas that take a chunk out of coverage,” the Democratic Senate aide said. Other areas that Congress will discuss in the fall include reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, MACRA and funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers.
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Obamacare narrowed gaps in healthcare access among minorities: report. Disparities in health access among blacks and Hispanics compared to whites narrowed from 2013 to 2015 as Obamacare came online. The report from the think tank Commonwealth Fund looks at three measures to determine the gap in access: insurance coverage, regular doctor visits and skipping needed healthcare. The analysis the gaps for all three measures narrowed between minorities and whites from 2013 to 2015. For instance, among working-age adults who were uninsured, the black and white disparity narrowed by 4 percentage points and the Hispanic-white disparity by 7 points. Despite the gains, the report showed that gaps in access remain.
GOP must stay unified, Ryan says of Trump's attacks on McCain and Flake. Ryan deflected questions about Trump's criticisms of Arizona's Republican senators Wednesday, saying simply that Republicans must stay united to pass their agenda. "I think the president feels that's a strategy that works for him," Ryan said of Trump's attacks on McCain and Flake, speaking at an event at Intel's campus in Hillsboro, Ore. "I think it's important that we all stay unified as Republicans to complete our agenda, he said. Ryan's hopes for passing a sweeping tax reform bill rest on a two-vote Republican majority in the upper chamber. On Tuesday, Trump continued to jab McCain and Flake at a high-profile rally in their home state. Although he refrained from criticizing the senators by name, he blamed McCain, who returned to Washington for the healthcare votes after being diagnosed with brain cancer, for the Republican healthcare bill falling one vote short of passage, and referred to Flake as "weak on borders, weak on crime." "We disagree on a few issues," Ryan said of Flake and McCain, "but nevertheless we have a very good working relationship. It's very important for us to stay unified, but I think the president is employing a strategy that he thinks is effective for him."
Obamacare’s final ‘empty county’ has been filled. Though Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance would not name the company that stepped in, saying only that, “We expect all Wisconsin counties will be covered including Menominee County,” Wisconsin Health News reported that Security Health Plan filed to serve there. Residents in the county were in danger of having no insurer to buy Obamacare’s tax-subsidized coverage from after Molina announced it would be exiting the state’s exchange. According to federal data, 47 people selected a plan on the exchange in Menominee this year. The state’s insurance division expects to release rate information before Nov. 1.
Governors set to testify on premium rates. Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Steve Bullock of Montana, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, Gary Herbert of Utah and John Hickenlooper of Colorado will testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Sept. 7.
CNN Florida set to execute inmate using new drug
Kaiser Health News McConnell’s Kentucky loses big if Obamacare repeal revived. Will he keep trying?
New York Times Hunting a killer: Sex, drugs and the return of Syphilis
NPR Abstinence education is ineffective and unethical, report argues
Washington Post Fewer antibiotic prescriptions are being filled, new analysis finds
Axios Reinsurance isn’t part of market stabilization negotiations
The Hill DOJ: Inmate HIV rate down
Politico California Democrats leading attack on Trump’s mental health
STAT News Beware of doomsday healthcare scenarios when it comes to health spending
Reuters McDonald’s to cut global antibiotic use in chickens
THURSDAY | Aug. 24
11 a.m. CST/noon EST. Bedford City Hall. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to hold town hall. Details.
Noon. Webcast by the Association of Health Care Journalists on “Responsible, accurate reporting on addiction.” Details.
3:15 p.m. CST/4:15 p.m. EST. Eagles' Landing. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, to hold town hall. Details.
5:30 p.m. EST. Furnace Brook Middle. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to hold town hall. Details.
6 p.m. CST/7 p.m. EST. North Central College Wentz Hall. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to hold town hall. Details.
FRIDAY | Aug. 25
11 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST. Seaside City Council Chambers. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to hold town hall. Details.
12:30 MDT/2:30 EST. Northwest Kansas Technical College, Memorial Student Union. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, to hold town hall. Details.
2 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST. Pine Grove Community House. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to hold town hall. Details.
5:30 p.m. EST. Concord-Carlisle High School. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to hold town hall. Details.
MONDAY | Aug. 28
Aug. 28-31. Paralyzed Veterans of America Annual Summit. Details.