Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told reporters on Friday that he’s getting close to securing enough votes to pass the last-ditch ACA repeal and replacement bill he’s put forth with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI).
“I am pretty confident we’ll get there on the Republican side,” Cassidy said. “We’re probably at 48-49 [votes] and talking to two or three more.” And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the effects of the Cassidy-Graham bill, which would speed up the scoring process.
Of course, those last two or three votes have been the challenge for the GOP all along, and they may not be any easier to round up this time. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted for a prior repeal bill, said Friday that he won't support this one. Plus, opponents are already stepping up their criticisms about the effects of the bill. And time is running out: Cassidy and his colleagues only have until September 30 to pass the bill this year under a process that would require only 50 supporters in the Senate. So while the Obamacare repeal may still have life, it remains a longshot.
As expected, groups representing hospitals sued the Trump administration Wednesday to stop a new regulation would require them to make public the prices for services they negotiate with insurers. Claiming the rule “is unlawful, several times over,” the industry groups, which include the American Hospital Association, say the rule violates their First Amendment rights, among other issues.
"The burden of compliance with the rule is enormous, and way out of line with any projected benefits associated with the rule," the suit says. In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said that hospitals “should be ashamed that they aren’t willing to provide American patients the cost of a service before they purchase it.”
Between December 2017 and July 2019, enrollment in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) fell by 1.9 million, or 2.6%. The Kaiser Family Foundation provided an analysis of that drop Monday, saying that while some of it was likely caused by enrollees finding jobs that offer private insurance, a significant portion is related to enrollees losing health insurance of any kind. “Experiences in some states suggest that some eligible people may be losing coverage due to barriers maintaining coverage associated with renewal processes and periodic eligibility checks,” Kaiser said.
Billionaire John D. Arnold, a former energy trader and hedge fund manager turned philanthropist with a focus on health care, says Big Pharma appears to have a powerful hold on members of Congress.
Arnold pointed out that PhRMA, the main pharmaceutical industry lobbying group, had revenues of $459 million in 2018, and that total lobbying on behalf of the sector probably came to about $1 billion last year. “I guess $1 bil each year is an intractable force in our political system,” he concluded.
The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin says Elizabeth Warren’s proposed taxes could claim more than 100% of income for some wealthy investors. Here’s an example Rubin discussed Friday:
“Consider a billionaire with a $1,000 investment who earns a 6% return, or $60, received as a capital gain, dividend or interest. If all of Ms. Warren’s taxes are implemented, he could owe 58.2% of that, or $35 in federal tax. Plus, his entire investment would incur a 6% wealth tax, i.e., at least $60. The result: taxes as high as $95 on income of $60 for a combined tax rate of 158%.”
In Rubin’s back-of-the-envelope analysis, an investor worth $2 billion would need to achieve a return of more than 10% in order to see any net gain after taxes. Rubin notes that actual tax bills would likely vary considerably depending on things like location, rates of return, and as-yet-undefined policy details. But tax rates exceeding 100% would not be unusual, especially for billionaires.