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Freedom Caucus tries to bring Obamacare ‘clean’ repeal back to life. The group, which helped more conservative members agree to a deal on the House’s healthcare bill, filed a discharge petition today that would repeal Obamacare and then delay its implementation for two years. The bill is the same one that Congress passed and that was vetoed in 2015, under former President Barack Obama. It failed to pass the Senate as an amendment last month, with seven GOP senators voting against it. The petition was filed during today’s pro-forma session. If it receives 218 signatures, it would force a floor vote, which would be held the second or fourth Monday in September.
The measure isn’t expected to advance, but it is drawing support. "Republicans already sent this bill to the president in 2016, and should do it again," said Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee. "The only thing that changed since then is that with Donald Trump as president, this bill would actually be signed into law. This repeal should be the bare minimum Republicans pass on Obamacare as it fulfills the promise we all made to repeal Obamacare. I look forward to signing this petition on the House floor when we return from recess."
Before the filing, Freedom Caucus spokeswoman Alyssa Farah tweeted Thursday: “guys, it's safe to say Obamacare repeal & replace is not dead. the idea that it ever was was mistaken. R's can't walk away from a 7 year promise.”
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President Trump gives insurers more time. The administration on Thursday gave insurers three more weeks to submit requests for their premium rates for coverage sold under Obamacare, according to a memo from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The original deadline of Aug. 16 was pushed back to Sept. 5 for plans sold on healthcare.gov, the site that 39 states and the District of Columbia use. It comes as insurers are waiting to find out what will happen to cost-sharing reduction subsidies. “Based on requests from state departments of insurance and issuers, CMS is providing issuers and states with clarity and additional time to account for recent rating practices,” a representative said in an email.
The Congressional Budget Office will release an estimate next week of the effect that cutting off the payments could have, the agency announced Friday. The payments reimburse insurers for reducing out-of-pocket costs for low-income Obamacare customers.
Trump irritated with Republicans for their failure to pass healthcare. On Friday morning, Trump retweeted stories from Fox News describing the back and forth between him and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and another article that looked at the backlash that ensued after some Republicans turned on him. Tensions have been simmering between Trump and McConnell because of differing opinions on the next congressional legislative agenda item. McConnell would prefer to leave healthcare, while the president wants Republicans "to get back to work" to formulate comprehensive reform. On Thursday, Trump continued his Twitter tirade against McConnell: "Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!"
What does Trump really think about McConnell’s leadership? Trump on Thursday cast doubt on McConnell's viability as the GOP's leader in the upper chamber should he not deliver on the president’s priorities such as tax reform and infrastructure. "Well, I'll tell you what. If he doesn't get repeal and replace done, if he doesn't get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn't get a very easy one to get done – infrastructure – if he doesn't get that done, then you should ask me that question," Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., when asked if McConnell should step down, according to a pool report.
Trump’s problem: No ‘loyalty’ from Republicans. "The problem for Trump is that there is nobody that is going to challenge Mitch McConnell in the conference," said a Republican operative and Capitol Hill veteran. "Trump has an ‘R' next to his name, but he's not a Republican; there's no loyalty." Trump's style has been to criticize congressional Republicans as though he were separate from them, rather than to embrace his role as the leader of the party and discuss their legislative goals, successes and failures, as shared. That has rankled Republicans already unhappy with what in their view is a president who has squandered the bully pulpit over an obsession with a Russia investigation he claims is fake — and protecting his personal brand — and declined to invest his political capital in replacing Obamacare. McConnell is being backed by his caucus, including Sen. Jeff Flake, who has been engaged in a long-running feud with Trump. “@SenateMajLdr does a tough job well. He has my support,” the Arizona Republican wrote on Twitter.
Newt Gingrich: Trump 'can't disassociate himself' from healthcare failure. The former House speaker said Thursday that Trump could not put all of the blame on McConnell for the Senate Republicans' failure to repeal Obamacare. "The fact is, with very narrow margin — 52 people — Mitch McConnell got 49 out of 52. And I think the president can't disassociate himself from this," Gingrich told Fox News. "He's part of the leadership team, he's not an observer sitting up in the stands. He's on the field. It was a collective failure." Gingrich added that it was "goofy" for Trump and McConnell to be "shooting at each other" when the healthcare bills did not attract any Democratic support.
GOP lawmaker calls Senate's fight to repeal Obamacare ‘Miracle at Dunkirk.’ Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told a group of constituents the Senate had a setback when it came up one vote short of continuing efforts to repeal Obamacare. He then compared the Republican effort to the event at Dunkirk during World War II, in which a fleet of civilian ships helped to rescue British soldiers stuck on the shores of France soon after the country fell to Nazi invaders in 1940. "The French and British faced a 'setback' in fighting the Germans," Wicker said, according to a report in the Dispatch, a local Mississippi paper. "And that is what the Senate has faced with healthcare." The dubbed "Miracle at Dunkirk" is the subject of a recent film, simply named "Dunkirk." Wicker kept up with the World War II references by saying the GOP will return to the fight against Obamacare, much like Gen. Douglas MacArthur went ashore to reclaim the Philippines, the Dispatch said.
Healthcare groups recommend fixes to Obamacare. In a letter sent to McConnell, groups including the American Heart Association made several recommendations, including making payments for cost-sharing reduction subsidies, implementing a reinsurance program and a guarantee that the open enrollment period will be promoted by the administration so people know when they are supposed to sign up for coverage and can receive help to do so.
Trump declares the opioid epidemic a national crisis. "President Donald J. Trump has instructed his administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic," Trump said in a statement. Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., that his administration was drawing up the paperwork to make the national emergency declaration. "The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I'm saying officially right now it is an emergency," he said. "It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis … We're going to draw it up and we're going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had."
Here’s what an emergency declaration could do. "I don't think it is just symbolic," said Tom Coderre, a former official with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Coderre said the declaration would open a series of measures that the Department of Health and Human Services could take to combat the opioid epidemic. Chief among them is waiving certain rules that would let more treatment centers get reimbursed by Medicaid. Certain exclusions in the Medicaid program essentially block providers from being reimbursed for addiction services in a facility with more than 16 beds. "It would enable these treatment centers that have 30-50, 100 beds to get reimbursed and accept Medicaid patients," said Coderre, now a senior adviser to the Altarum Institute. "That would be a game changer." The declaration also means the federal government can access "no-year" funds appropriated to the Public Health Emergency Fund. The funds are available for an indefinite period of time and don't disappear at the end of the fiscal year. The federal government also can negotiate prices for the overdose antidote naloxone to ensure the medication is affordable and it could hand out grants for new ways to fight the opioid crisis.
Tom Price praises Trump for the decision. The Department of Health and Human Services secretary, who indicated earlier that the administration wouldn’t be making the declaration, said Thursday: "President Trump is taking strong, decisive action in directing the administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic. Today’s announcement demonstrates our sense of urgency to fight the scourge of addiction that is affecting all corners of this country. Traveling the country, we have seen firsthand the devastation this crisis is inflicting on individuals, families, and communities. President Trump’s announcement further punctuates his clear commitment to combating this epidemic and I thank him for his leadership."
Chris Christie says Trump 'deserves credit' for declaring opioid epidemic national emergency. The outgoing New Jersey governor leads the opioid commission that Trump created and that made the recommendation for a federal state of emergency. "It is a national emergency and the president has confirmed that through his words and actions today, and he deserves great credit for doing so," Christie said in a statement released by his spokesman. "As I have said before, I am completely confident that the president will address this problem aggressively and do all he can to alleviate the suffering and loss of scores of families in every corner of our country. We look forward to continuing the commission's efforts and to working with this president to address the approximately 142 deaths a day from drug overdoses in the United States."
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MONDAY | Aug. 14
Congressional Budget Office expected to release an estimate of the effect of ending cost-sharing reduction subsidies.