President Trump’s State of the Union address left some declaring that he has “thrown in the towel” on repealing Obamacare. But conversations I’ve had with people in the Trump White House make clear that health care, including Obamacare, remains front-and-center for this administration.
Recently, I spoke with Andrew Bremberg, Director of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, about Trump’s health care agenda for 2018. His view—and his boss’s view—is that the Trump administration has done more than people appreciate on Obamacare, and on health care more broadly. On health care, Trump’s “policy direction is more robust and substantive than some people understand,” Bremberg said.
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When Erica Jackson and her husband decided she would quit her job as a nurse and stay at home with their three kids, they knew they couldn’t afford insurance on the individual market. The family of five, who live in Wichita Falls, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, could already barely afford Jackson’s employer coverage, which cost $900 per month for a plan with a $12,000 deductible.
So Jackson reached out to her insurance broker for alternatives to exchange plans, and he suggested that she and her family would be a good fit for Medi-Share, a nonprofit insurance alternative based in Florida in which members share each other’s health care costs. There was a catch, though. The plan was run by a nonprofit religious ministry.
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The Senate confirmed Alex Azar as secretary of Health and Human Services, installing him atop a department seeking a fresh start after a turbulent first year under the Trump administration. Azar cruised to confirmation Wednesday in a 55-43 vote, with six Senate Democrats — largely from red states — and Independent Angus King joining nearly all Republicans to back his candidacy.
A former pharmaceutical executive and twice-confirmed veteran of George W. Bush’s HHS, the 50-year-old nominee earned bipartisan respect in recent weeks for his familiarity with the sprawling agency and a stated desire to reset relations with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
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Congressional House leaders plan legislation this year to tackle deficits by curbing entitlements, just weeks after digging a deeper deficit hole with a tax plan that will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.
Entitlement reform is certainly needed. Even before the tax legislation, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast a major rise in federal deficits, from 2.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 to nearly 10% within 30 years. Over that period, says the CBO, health spending, and in particular Medicare, will be one of the largest drivers of spending.
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Congressional Republicans were elected to repeal Obamacare. They may run this year as the politicians who saved it. Since late last year, GOP leaders have been planning to pump tens of billions of dollars’ worth of new federal spending into the veins of insurance companies that are hemorrhaging red ink on the Obamacare exchanges.
The transfusion is expected to be a concoction of two bills. The first, championed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), would appropriate cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurers. The second, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), would give insurers an additional $10 billion (and perhaps more) in federal cash.
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Americans are among the most generous people in the world. While this nation was founded on the pursuit of a shared dream, the moral pledge of the American people has been to never leave behind our most vulnerable fellow citizens.
When we created Medicaid in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, we formalized that commitment and wove a fabric of care that has provided health services for seniors in need, pregnant mothers, low-income children and parents, and people with disabilities. Johnson affirmed the nation’s safety net, saying, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”
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