Health Care

Republicans Lose Their Favorite Campaign Issue

Washington Post: “For the first time in nearly a decade, Republican candidates across the country find themselves bereft of what was once their favorite talking point: repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — and all the havoc they alleged it has wreaked.”

“That’s because the GOP failed dramatically in its efforts last year to roll back the ACA as its first big legislative delivery on the promise of single-party control of Washington from Congress to the White House. That defeat has quickly turned attacks on Obamacare from centerpiece into pariah on the campaign trail, a sudden disappearing act that Democrats are looking to exploit as they seek to regain power in the midterms.”

Obamacare Enrollment Barely Budges

Washington Post: “A total of 11.8 million Americans signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance for 2018, a drop of just 400,000 from the previous year despite widespread predictions that enrollment would plummet amid political and insurance industry turbulence surrounding the law.”

“The final figures, released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, show that the proportion of first-time customers for this year dipped slightly, from 31 percent to 27 percent, while the high proportion qualifying for government subsidies that help consumers afford their insurance premiums stayed level at 83 percent.”

Health Care Takes Center Stage in 2018 Campaigns

Amy Walter: “There’s always something of a disconnect between what Washington, DC is obsessed about and what the rest of the country is worried about. In DC, of course, the story is Robert Mueller, Russia and White House chaos. Out in congressional races, however, Democratic candidates aren’t talking about any of those things. Instead, their primary focus is health care; specifically, their criticism of GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare. Ironically, while the passage of Obamacare cost Democrats their House majority in 2010, GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare may help Democrats flip House control in 2018.”

“While Republicans argue that Americans are going to vote with their pocketbooks this fall (thanks to a growing economy boosted by tax cuts and deregulation), Democrats seem to be betting that health care — costs and access — will be the more salient issue in 2018. In fact, as we saw in the special election in PA-18, Democrat Conor Lamb made the case that many of his constituents are going to have to use their tax cut refund to pay for escalating health care costs.”

Trump’s Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty for Dealers

“The Trump administration is finalizing a long-awaited plan that it says will solve the opioid crisis, but it also calls for law enforcement measures — like the death penalty for some drug dealers — that public health advocates and congressional Republicans warn will detract from efforts to reverse the epidemic,” Politico reports.

“The ambitious plan, which the White House has quietly been circulating among political appointees this month, could be announced as soon as Monday when President Donald Trump visits New Hampshire, a state hard hit by the epidemic.”

A Growing Health Care Gap Between Red and Blue

Ron Brownstein: “The most immediate effect of the recent steps taken by Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to unravel the Affordable Care Act will be to create an even deeper gulf between red and blue states in the availability and quality of health insurance. An array of blue states are exploring ways not only to blunt Trump’s moves, but also to reach beyond the ACA with new mechanisms to expand coverage. Simultaneously, many red states are leaning into the rollback—both by seeking to limit access to Medicaid, and by embracing Trump’s efforts to deregulate insurance markets in ways that will restore the pre-ACA separation between the healthy and sick…”

“That means health insurers are likely to announce major premium increases during the next ACA open-enrollment period—just weeks before the midterms. In a January national Kaiser poll, three-fifths of Americans said they would blame Trump and the GOP for any further ACA problems. By creating the conditions for big premium hikes this fall, Republicans in Washington and the states appear determined to test that proposition.”

Millions Won’t Have Health Insurance Next Year

A new Urban Institute report finds that by 2019, 6.4 million fewer Americans are expected to have health insurance as a result of the GOP’s decision to get rid of the individual health care mandate and other policy changes made by President Trump.

Axios: “The report is the first serious study to analyze the combined effects of several major health policy changes made under the Trump administration. Note that the effect is far off from what we’d see under a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but represents the real-world significance of the pieces they were able to kill.”

Trump Slams McCain Again

President Trump mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — without using his name — for his no vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, Axios reports.

Said Trump: “Remember, one person walked into a room when he was supposed to go this way (Trump enthusiastically gives a thumbs up) and he said he was going this way, and he walked in and he went this way (Trump throws his thumb down) and everyone said what happened? What was that all about? … I don’t want to be controversial so I won’t use his name. What a mess!”

Just two weeks ago, Meghan McCain told Politico that Trump had called her to say he would “back off” her cancer-stricken father.

Trump Adviser Says You Don’t Need a Flu Shot

Gloria Copeland, a controversial minister on President Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said flu shots aren’t necessary when you have Jesus, the HuffPost reports.

Said Copeland: “Inoculate yourself with the word of God.”

She said the faithful who don’t have the flu can ward off the infection by repeatedly saying, “I’ll never have the flu. I’ll never have the flu.”

White House Opioids Effort Sidelines Drug Experts

Politico: “White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a ‘just say no’ campaign.”

“Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the ‘drug czar’ office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.”

Republicans Finally Give Up on Obamacare Repeal

Politico: “Though the GOP still controls both chambers of Congress and maintains the ability to jam through a repeal-and-replace bill via a simple majority, there are no discussions of doing so here at House and Senate Republicans’ joint retreat at The Greenbrier resort. Republicans doubt they can even pass a budget providing for the powerful party-line ‘reconciliation’ procedure used to pass tax reform last year, much less take on the politically perilous task of rewriting health care laws in an election year.”

“Republicans’ decision to abstain from another attempt at gutting Barack Obama’s health law — at least this year — goes back on a pledge the party has made to voters since 2010. And it underscores how Republicans overpromised in their ability to reform the nation’s health care and never fully recognized how divided the party is over key Obamacare planks like protecting pre-existing conditions and preserving the law’s Medicaid expansion.”

CDC Director Resigns Over Conflicts

Brenda Fitzgerald, the embattled director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has resigned after facing questions about including her purchase of tobacco stocks while leading the nation’s anti-smoking efforts.

Politico: “Fitzgerald had also come under congressional scrutiny because of financial conflicts that led her to recuse herself from speaking to Congress about issues including cancer detection and aspects of the opioid crisis.”