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20 мая, 01:49

Trump's On The Verge Of Exploding The Health Insurance Market

President Donald Trump has had his finger on the detonator of the bomb to blow up Obamacare for months. Now he may be about to press it. Trump told advisers earlier this week that he wants to cut off billions of dollars in payments to health insurance companies that serve the poorest enrollees in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, Politico reported Friday.  If Trump follows through on this threat, he could wreak havoc on the health insurance system. Insurance companies are likely to hike premiums or to stop selling to people who buy coverage via the exchanges, like HealthCare.gov and Covered California, or directly (rather than obtaining coverage through their employers or government programs like Medicare and Medicaid). The results would be higher prices and fewer, if any, choices for consumers, and the effects could be felt quickly because many states would allow insurers to drop their customers right away in the absence of these payments. In short, this part of the health insurance market could fall apart under Trump’s watch if he doesn’t pay the money the federal government owes. At issue are what’s called cost-sharing reduction payments ― these are essentially reimbursements to health insurance companies, which are required to reduce out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copayments for low-income customers. A pending lawsuit brought by House Republicans against the Obama administration in 2014 has challenged the legality of these CSR payments. “The White House has told Congress that it will make the May CSR, but has not made any commitment on further payments. No final decisions have been made at this time, and all options are on the table,” a White House official wrote Friday in an email to HuffPost. The White House’s caginess about these payments has driven health care and business groups to seek relief from the legislative branch. “We urge Congress to take action now to guarantee a steady stream of CSR funding through 2018. Such action would represent a strong, positive step for all consumers who buy their own insurance by eliminating the single most destabilizing factor causing double-digit premium increases for 2018,” reads a letter sent to Senate leaders on Friday from a coalition including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other health care, business and patient advocacy groups. “At this point, only Congressional action can help consumers.” Health insurance companies, state regulators, governors and congressional Democrats have been on edge about the exchange markets since Trump said during a pre-inauguration press conference in January that “the easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted.” Trump has made similar comments many times since becoming president, including during an interview with the Economist this month. “We’re subsidizing it and we don’t have to subsidize it. You know if I ever stop wanting to pay the subsidies, which I will,” he told the Economist. Trump has also inaccurately referred to this money as a “bailout” of the insurance industry, rather than as a reimbursement of money the government owes insurers. According to the Los Angeles Times, a senior Trump health official told insurers that the administration would promise to make these payments if the industry backed the health care bill the House passed last month ― a quid pro quo offer that the administration denies. No final decisions have been made at this time, and all options are on the table. A White House official To Trump’s thinking, dealing this major blow to Obamacare could force Democrats to the negotiating table over repeal of the entire Affordable Care Act. Congressional Democrats have loudly rejected that idea. What’s more, 60 percent of Americans don’t approve of negotiating tactics that disrupt insurance markets, according to an April survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly three-fourths think Trump should work to keep the Affordable Care Act running while Congress considers a new health care law, and almost two-thirds ― including a majority of Republicans ― believe Trump and the GOP are responsible for any future problems with Obamacare. Yet Trump, against the advice of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and others, still favors cutting off the cost-sharing payments, Politico reported. And the Trump administration could make its intentions known in mere days. The Obama administration had appealed a trial court judge’s ruling in favor of House Republicans’ claims that the federal government is unlawfully making those payments without an explicit congressional appropriation. In the meantime, the judge allowed the Obama and then Trump administrations to continue reimbursing insurers. The appeals court has granted delays in the case this year as the Trump administration pondered what to do. But now the two parties face a deadline of Monday to update the court on their plans. Congress could resolve the issue at any time by simply appropriating the funding, but it hasn’t. The time to act is now. Wisconsin insurance commissioner Theodore Nickel and Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie Mix McPeak Exchange enrollees earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level ― which amounts to $30,015 for a single person ― are eligible for cost reductions, which can transform deductibles of thousands of dollars into just hundreds of dollars for the consumer. The Affordable Care Act mandates that insurers pay the cost difference to medical providers and subsequently get paid back by the federal government themselves. More than 7 million people ― 58 percent of exchange enrollees ― received the subsidies this year. The cost-sharing reduction payments are crucial to the finances of insurance companies. Without this money, insurers would raise premiums by an average of 19 percent next year, on top of whatever the increases otherwise would have been, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated. Early rate filings in several states are consistent with those projections, which some insurers citing uncertainty about the cost-sharing reduction payments as a reason they’re asking for higher premiums next year. During his early months in office, Trump has gone out of his way to raise insurance companies’ concerns about whether they would ever get their money. The consequence has been heightened confusion and worry in the health insurance industry, as state officials complain they can’t get straight answers from the Trump administration. The White House threatened to cut off the money during negotiations with Congress over a spending bill in April, but relented. Still, Trump has never stopped talking about it, to the consternation of the health care industry and state officials. In letters delivered Wednesday, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state officials from both political parties, urged Senate leaders and the White House Office of Management and Budget to make sure the money doesn’t stop flowing. The bipartisan National Governors Association asked Congress to address the cost-sharing reduction payments last month. “The time to act is now,” Wisconsin insurance commissioner Theodore Nickel and Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie Mix McPeak wrote Wednesday on behalf of the insurance commissioners group to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. It was Mulvaney who issued the April threat to halt the payments. “Carriers are currently developing their rates for 2018 and making the decision whether to participate on the exchanges, or even off the exchanges, in 2018. Assurances from the administration that the cost-sharing reduction payments will continue under current law will go a long way toward stabilizing the individual markets in our states while legislative replacement and reform options are debated in Congress,” Nickel and McPeak wrote. Trump, as the Politico report indicates, doesn’t seem inclined to provide those assurances or to take any steps to manage the insurance markets that his government is responsible for overseeing. Sam Stein contributed reporting. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

20 мая, 01:49

Trump's On The Verge Of Exploding The Health Insurance Market

President Donald Trump has had his finger on the detonator of the bomb to blow up Obamacare for months. Now he may be about to press it. Trump told advisers earlier this week that he wants to cut off billions of dollars in payments to health insurance companies that serve the poorest enrollees in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, Politico reported Friday.  If Trump follows through on this threat, he could wreak havoc on the health insurance system. Insurance companies are likely to hike premiums or to stop selling to people who buy coverage via the exchanges, like HealthCare.gov and Covered California, or directly (rather than obtaining coverage through their employers or government programs like Medicare and Medicaid). The results would be higher prices and fewer, if any, choices for consumers, and the effects could be felt quickly because many states would allow insurers to drop their customers right away in the absence of these payments. In short, this part of the health insurance market could fall apart under Trump’s watch if he doesn’t pay the money the federal government owes. At issue are what’s called cost-sharing reduction payments ― these are essentially reimbursements to health insurance companies, which are required to reduce out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copayments for low-income customers. A pending lawsuit brought by House Republicans against the Obama administration in 2014 has challenged the legality of these CSR payments. “The White House has told Congress that it will make the May CSR, but has not made any commitment on further payments. No final decisions have been made at this time, and all options are on the table,” a White House official wrote Friday in an email to HuffPost. The White House’s caginess about these payments has driven health care and business groups to seek relief from the legislative branch. “We urge Congress to take action now to guarantee a steady stream of CSR funding through 2018. Such action would represent a strong, positive step for all consumers who buy their own insurance by eliminating the single most destabilizing factor causing double-digit premium increases for 2018,” reads a letter sent to Senate leaders on Friday from a coalition including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other health care, business and patient advocacy groups. “At this point, only Congressional action can help consumers.” Health insurance companies, state regulators, governors and congressional Democrats have been on edge about the exchange markets since Trump said during a pre-inauguration press conference in January that “the easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted.” Trump has made similar comments many times since becoming president, including during an interview with the Economist this month. “We’re subsidizing it and we don’t have to subsidize it. You know if I ever stop wanting to pay the subsidies, which I will,” he told the Economist. Trump has also inaccurately referred to this money as a “bailout” of the insurance industry, rather than as a reimbursement of money the government owes insurers. According to the Los Angeles Times, a senior Trump health official told insurers that the administration would promise to make these payments if the industry backed the health care bill the House passed last month ― a quid pro quo offer that the administration denies. No final decisions have been made at this time, and all options are on the table. A White House official To Trump’s thinking, dealing this major blow to Obamacare could force Democrats to the negotiating table over repeal of the entire Affordable Care Act. Congressional Democrats have loudly rejected that idea. What’s more, 60 percent of Americans don’t approve of negotiating tactics that disrupt insurance markets, according to an April survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly three-fourths think Trump should work to keep the Affordable Care Act running while Congress considers a new health care law, and almost two-thirds ― including a majority of Republicans ― believe Trump and the GOP are responsible for any future problems with Obamacare. Yet Trump, against the advice of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and others, still favors cutting off the cost-sharing payments, Politico reported. And the Trump administration could make its intentions known in mere days. The Obama administration had appealed a trial court judge’s ruling in favor of House Republicans’ claims that the federal government is unlawfully making those payments without an explicit congressional appropriation. In the meantime, the judge allowed the Obama and then Trump administrations to continue reimbursing insurers. The appeals court has granted delays in the case this year as the Trump administration pondered what to do. But now the two parties face a deadline of Monday to update the court on their plans. Congress could resolve the issue at any time by simply appropriating the funding, but it hasn’t. The time to act is now. Wisconsin insurance commissioner Theodore Nickel and Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie Mix McPeak Exchange enrollees earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level ― which amounts to $30,015 for a single person ― are eligible for cost reductions, which can transform deductibles of thousands of dollars into just hundreds of dollars for the consumer. The Affordable Care Act mandates that insurers pay the cost difference to medical providers and subsequently get paid back by the federal government themselves. More than 7 million people ― 58 percent of exchange enrollees ― received the subsidies this year. The cost-sharing reduction payments are crucial to the finances of insurance companies. Without this money, insurers would raise premiums by an average of 19 percent next year, on top of whatever the increases otherwise would have been, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated. Early rate filings in several states are consistent with those projections, which some insurers citing uncertainty about the cost-sharing reduction payments as a reason they’re asking for higher premiums next year. During his early months in office, Trump has gone out of his way to raise insurance companies’ concerns about whether they would ever get their money. The consequence has been heightened confusion and worry in the health insurance industry, as state officials complain they can’t get straight answers from the Trump administration. The White House threatened to cut off the money during negotiations with Congress over a spending bill in April, but relented. Still, Trump has never stopped talking about it, to the consternation of the health care industry and state officials. In letters delivered Wednesday, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state officials from both political parties, urged Senate leaders and the White House Office of Management and Budget to make sure the money doesn’t stop flowing. The bipartisan National Governors Association asked Congress to address the cost-sharing reduction payments last month. “The time to act is now,” Wisconsin insurance commissioner Theodore Nickel and Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie Mix McPeak wrote Wednesday on behalf of the insurance commissioners group to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. It was Mulvaney who issued the April threat to halt the payments. “Carriers are currently developing their rates for 2018 and making the decision whether to participate on the exchanges, or even off the exchanges, in 2018. Assurances from the administration that the cost-sharing reduction payments will continue under current law will go a long way toward stabilizing the individual markets in our states while legislative replacement and reform options are debated in Congress,” Nickel and McPeak wrote. Trump, as the Politico report indicates, doesn’t seem inclined to provide those assurances or to take any steps to manage the insurance markets that his government is responsible for overseeing. Sam Stein contributed reporting. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

17 мая, 14:05

Samsung, Shame, and Corporate Atonement

For the past several months, South Korea has been roiled by accusations of corruption in its government and major businesses. The role of the country’s family-run businesses, and whether or how they are held to account for wrongdoing, is under intense scrutiny. In February Samsung’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was arrested on bribery charges. Lee is accused of donating $36 million to nonprofit foundations operated by a friend of the former president in return for political favors. Lee has denied the charges. Then, in March, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office, in part because of accusations that she helped a friend, Choi Soon-sil, pressure companies into making donations to nonprofits controlled by Choi and gave her access to secret government documents. The outrage at these and similar scandals helped propel liberal candidate Moon Jae-in to the presidency; he campaigned on promises to clamp down on the country’s family-controlled business dynasties in the wake of Park’s cronyism and corruption scandal. Many South Koreans feel envy and resentment toward family-run conglomerates such as Samsung, SK, LG, and Hyundai. Known as chaebol, these businesses make up more than half the value of the companies traded on South Korea’s stock exchange. However, their contribution to the world’s 11th-largest economy is overshadowed by repeated cases of bribery, weak corporate governance, and complicated shareholding plans that help the families accumulate wealth and inherit management. (Most of the chaebol are in their third generation of family control.) Moon has vowed to stop families from using such methods to keep control of these ostensibly public companies. The political scandal and ensuing election rekindled the public’s anger at the chaebol for previous misdeeds; many people feel they never properly sought redemption. But to rectify that and repair their reputations, Samsung and others need to chart a different path than their Western corporate peers. The hidden rules of atonement differ greatly across cultures. Redemption in Guilt Culture In guilt culture, which exists mainly in Western countries, redemption derives from the individual’s recognition that their conduct has violated the laws of society. When the individual believes they are innocent, denial and proving their innocence in court is expected. However, if they are found guilty, jail time serves to make things right. That’s why in some major corporate scandals in the United States people expect executives to serve jail time to make amends. For example, after the Enron scandal former CEO Kenneth Lay was convicted of fraud and conspiracy and received a 45-year sentence. Former president and CEO Jeffrey Skilling appealed to shorten his 24-year sentence. Andrew Fastow, the former CFO, was sentenced to six years in prison. Admittedly, guilt culture showed little enthusiasm for criminally sanctioning executives involved in the 2008 banking crisis. For example, nine years after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, former CEO Richard Fuld is a free man; in fact, no executives were jailed for their role in the U.S. financial crisis. Three former Anglo Irish Bank executives were sentenced to just a few years for conspiring to mislead investors, depositors, and lenders. (The fraudulent €7.2 billion transaction eventually led to Ireland’s financial crisis.) In the UK, a few former executives of Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS were stripped of their knighthood but avoided criminal charges. Sometimes the absence of criminal prosecutions can be attributed to unease over the wider implications such actions would have on the national economy. Other times, it seems that, in guilt culture, you can hate the crime and still respect the criminal. The UK’s Financial Services Authority declared that it would be unjust to single out individual wrongdoers for punishment; that the bankers’ actions around the financial crisis were the product of a pervasive culture; and that a one-off symbolic punishment would be of little significance. Even so, in guilt culture the punishment of serving prison time is still seen as a way for individuals to “pay their debt to society.” Similarly, companies can be hit with big fines or settlements by government regulators. Time behind bars for executives and big-figure forfeitures such as Volkswagen’s $4.3 billion guilty plea act as targeted punishments that restore the corporate reputation. Redemption in Shame Culture By contrast, in places like South Korea and Japan, CEOs are not often sent to jail. Toshiba’s former CEO Hisao Tanaka and the other executives who resigned over $1.2 billion in financial fraud received only suspended prison terms. Similarly, Hyundai Motor chair Chung Mong-koo, Samsung chair Lee Kun-hee (the father of the arrested Lee Jae-yong), and SK former chair Chey Jong-hyun were each convicted on separate occasions of corruption but were granted presidential pardons. If a business executive is accused of a crime, punishment begins as soon as the suspicion is made public, through the photos in handcuffs or sensationalized news stories about their detention. That’s because, in shame culture, face metaphorically means honor. The more an unethically behaving CEO gets shamed, the more the public is prepared to forgive. A leader recovers honor more sincerely through a deep, bowing apology than through a multiyear jail term. In extreme cases in shame culture, losing face can even lead to suicide. For example, former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun threw himself off a cliff in 2009 after his wife was accused of receiving payments from businesses, while he claimed he was transforming the chaebol. His suicide changed his status from criminal to hero, and the investigation was closed. This is usually only possible in a shame culture. The need for people in many Asian countries to save face and avoid shame is often difficult for Westerners to understand. For example, researchers have found that, in Japan, an apology is a sign of personal remorse; in the U.S., it’s more likely to be seen as an admission of culpability. Samsung’s Situation What could Samsung do to improve its reputation in its home country? The corporation needs to actively accept moral and social responsibility beyond defending itself in court. Following the arrest of Lee Jae-yong, Samsung decided to disband its Future Strategy Office, considered the family’s most loyal body — and that’s a good start. But it’s not enough. The company’s existing social contribution department, which focuses on marketing activities, should also be overhauled. A more authentic CSR program and a more public commitment to ethical leadership by the controlling Lee family would signal to the government and the public that Samsung is taking change to heart. To see such reforms through, Samsung could draw on a historic strength: its superior internal reputation. My research work suggests that Samsung’s superior employee loyalty was key to surpassing Sony as a global electronics firm. However, I believe now is the time for the executives’ culture of loyalty to the family to be replaced by a culture of loyalty to the organization. That’s a transformation that will need to be thoughtfully designed and carried out. Samsung has a long history of turning crises into opportunities. Without learning from the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, Samsung wouldn’t be the global powerhouse it is now. Its stock hit an all-time high during the Galaxy Note 7 recall. If the company takes the right steps to repair its reputation, employees and South Korean citizens alike can again fully respect the “three-star” brand that started in 1938 with an investment of just two dollars. There’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to Samsung’s situation and the wider reputation of the chaebol. Certainly, South Korean politicians and news outlets deserve criticism for their role in hyping scandals. Even so, the decisive election of Moon Jae-in and the ongoing investigation of Samsung’s heir show that political leaders and prosecutors are determined to correct the country’s reputation for being too lenient on business executives. Unlike past attempts to reform the chaebol, this new government effort should start by focusing on policies that reduce corruption and cronyism, rather than finding a scapegoat to appease public anger. And, importantly, this is an opportunity for Samsung and the other chaebol to redeem themselves in the eyes of the South Korean public and the world.

10 мая, 00:29

Reflections On Mother's Day

About a month ago, I spoke at Lilly School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis about millennials ― people born roughly between 1980-2000 ― and their sizable impact on the social sector. Some stats I mentioned that day have stuck with me. The first was this: an astounding 9 out of 10 millennials would switch brands to businesses associated with a good cause. (That translates to 91 percent of millennials vs. 85 percent of the general U.S. population). The data for millennial moms was equally impressive. A whopping 94 percent of them were “very or somewhat likely” to switch brands based on the cause it supported, as reported in the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study. These findings give me hope in the many ways that this younger generation is changing our world for the better. Those of you working at nonprofits, foundations, or B-Corps might should tap into these powerful trends around consumer purchasing power, if you haven’t already. A final stat warrants mention. A resounding 85 percent of females control their family’s shopping budget. This fact underscores the idea that women have substantial leverage to advocate for causes they strongly believe in. Mother’s Day, May 13, is just around the corner. That day, millions of families across America will find themselves without enough food to eat. Why not honor your own mom by helping other mom whose families may be food insecure? You can donate to my organization, Feeding America, or volunteer at one of our member food banks across the nation. However you celebrate the day, remember the power of the purse strings. Next time you’re at the grocery store, take a few minutes to closely examine what you’re buying. Make this holiday a chance to support whatever good cause your mother believes in. Follow me on Twitter at @diaviv. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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09 мая, 14:00

How To Get Executive Buy-In For Corporate Social Responsibility In Four Steps

CSR isn’t just the ethical thing to do — it’s also the savviest business practice.

04 мая, 01:03

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 5/3/2017, #44

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 2:25 P.M. EDT MR. SPICER:  Good afternoon.  Another busy day here at the White House.  As you know, the President has been talking to members of Congress the last few days about the American Health Care Act, up through this morning.  The Vice President just left a bit ago to meet with some of the lawmakers on Capitol Hill about healthcare and the rest of the President's legislative agenda.  The President was glad to meet this morning with Representatives Long and Upton who voiced their support for the AHCA earlier this morning. It's especially important that we continue to make progress on repealing and replacing Obamacare, as rates skyrocket and insurers keep fleeing the market around the country in anticipation of this impending implosion.   Earlier this week, Aetna announced that it will scale back its presence on Obamacare exchanges even further in 2018, withdrawing from the Iowa exchange.  Aetna had already cut its participation in the exchanges from fifteen states to four in 2017.  Iowa is going to be hit particularly hard by these recent developments as Medica, the last insurance for most of the state, also announced this week that it will likely stop selling individual healthcare policies in the state, which will affect tens of thousands of Americans. With reports like these seemingly coming every day, it couldn’t be clearer that it's time for action on healthcare.  We're glad that so many members are with us, and look forward to welcoming even more on board. Also, earlier today, the President dropped by an event focusing on school choice that was hosted by the Vice President and Secretary DeVos with students ranging from kindergarten to high school.  Most of the students who visited the White House today are some of the thousands of local children who will benefit from the three-year extension of the D.C. School Choice scholarship secured by the President and congressional allies in the budget deal.   The District of Columbia's Opportunity Scholarship program, which was launched in 2004, provides vouchers to D.C. students whose family either received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, or earned less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level.   And this program gets results.  Last year, 69 percent of D.C. public school students graduated from high school.  That's compared to an incredible 98 percent of the D.C. scholarship students who received their high school diplomas last year.  Funding for the Opportunity Scholarship was one of our priorities during these budget negotiations, and the Trump administration is glad to have ensured that the program's extension was taken care of through this appropriations bill, on top of the increases in military spending and funding for border security. Today, the President welcomed the President of the Palestinian Authority to the White House for an official visit.  The visit stemmed from a phone call the two leaders had on March 10th, when President Trump invited President Abbas to Washington so they could discuss, in person, ways to move forward on a comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   The two leaders made their own statements just a little bit ago.  But to give you a few additional details, some of the topics that were discussed during their meeting and the lunch were: advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace; preventing incitements to violence, particularly media outlets directly associated with the Palestinian Authority; strengthening efforts to combat terrorism, including defeating ISIS; measures to empower the Palestinian economy and provide economic opportunity for the Palestinian people.  And, additionally, the President raised concerns about the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed acts of terror, and to their families, and emphasized the need to resolve this issue.  Later this evening, the President, along with the Vice President and Mrs. Pence, will host members of the White House Evangelical Advisory Board in the residence for a discussion, prayer, and dinner.  The President is proud to welcome these faith leaders to the White House for the first time and thank them for their steadfast support ahead of the National Day of Prayer, which is tomorrow. Later tonight, the Vice President will also deliver a keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List 2017 Campaign for Life Gala.  The Vice President's office has more details on that.   And with that, I'll take your questions.  Ken. Q    Sean, on healthcare, does the President feel like we've reached an inflection point here with the House?  Is this a make-or-break moment in terms of getting the bill through the House?  And what precisely is the President doing, and what arguments is he making to members on why they should support this bill? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think he's making several points.  One is that Obamacare if failing and that, as I just mentioned with that note, that with so many cases around the country, the need to have a provider is becoming greater and greater.  Two is that costs are out of control.  These are two basic tenets that you've heard us talk about.  But I think overall the efforts that were made, and especially the effort this morning with Congressman Long and Upton, help bring more people into this effort and make it even a stronger bill, and ensure that Americans have a healthcare system that gets them the care that they need at a price that's affordable. Q    Is this a "now or never" kind of moment, though, with the bill?   MR. SPICER:  I don’t want to put it there.  The President has made it clear before that he's not trying to set a date for certain.  Obviously, that's up to the Speaker and the House leadership to determine when that time is appropriate.  But as you have seen, we continue to move closer and closer to that time, and the number of members who are supporting it continues to grow further and further, and I think that's a very promising sign. Q    Yesterday, the President tweeted that FBI Director James Comey gave Hillary Clinton a "free pass" for many bad deeds. Is the President comfortable having an FBI director that gives out free passes serve during his administration? MR. SPICER:  The President has confidence in the director.  But I think, clearly, his point was after some of the comments that were made yesterday regarding the reason for the outcome of the election, I think he just wanted to make it clear what exactly happened. Q    On healthcare, the President appears to be directly involved behind the scenes.  How much responsibility does the President plan to take for the outcome of the vote if it does occur this week? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think if we have a vote -- which is looking greater and greater every day; but again, I'm not going to get ahead of the House leadership in deciding when that is -- my assumption is the House leaders will call that when that number will put us over the top.  And I feel like -- again, you saw two votes come down today.  The President has been on the phone constantly.  The Vice President, the Chief of Staff, other members of the legislative affairs team calling members, talking to them, hearing their concerns.  But I think we have made this an unbelievable bill and an unbelievable replacement for Obamacare, which is failing, and that’s what we’ve sought to do from the beginning. Q    Sean, there was a report in Politico yesterday that seemed pretty well sourced indicating that President Trump plans to sign an executive order tomorrow in the name of religious freedom.  Will the President sign a religious freedom executive order tomorrow?  And will it enable discrimination against LGBT people? MR. SPICER:  So I know we’ve talked about EOs for a long time -- executive orders.  Tomorrow is National Day of Prayer.  There will be a proclamation the President will sign.  We’re looking forward to having religious leaders from a multitude of backgrounds come to the White House and celebrate this day with us, but I’ve never gotten ahead of executive orders and I’m not going to start now. Q    But you can’t deny that the executive order -- the President is a friend of the LGBT community.  Isn't that a law? MR. SPICER:  I answered the question.  Thank you. Q    How can the President be a friend of the LGBT community if the President is considering this executive order? MR. SPICER:  Blake. Q    Thanks, Sean.  I want to get the reaction to former President Obama.  He tweeted yesterday after Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue that went viral -- a monologue you’ve probably seen about his child.  Kimmel talked about the need to cover preexisting conditions that need funding for the NIH.  And Mr. Obama said, “Well said, Jimmy.  That’s exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy.”  Your reaction to both of them would be what? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think we share that concern for the Kimmels' child, as well as any child that needs care, and that’s frankly why the President fought so hard to improve the bill like he did this morning, to make sure that there was that extra layer of protection for anybody with a preexisting condition, no matter their stage in life.  That’s why we’re fighting so hard for this. But I think, most importantly -- and I think at the end of Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue, he said that there is no -- you know, we need to have some of these things that aren’t Republican or Democrat, that they’re American policies.  And I think that’s what the President is fighting for right now, is to make sure that we have a healthcare system that doesn’t matter where you live or your background, that it takes care of people.   We’re making sure right now -- we’ve talked about this endlessly over the last month or so -- but we’ve got a healthcare system that’s not doing what it’s supposed to.  It’s failing.  It’s costing people too much.  It’s giving people a card, not coverage.  And what the President is trying to do by working with these members of Congress is to make sure that we have the strongest possible healthcare system that covers them, that gives them the care that they need, that allows them to go see a doctor, that covers preexisting conditions, and does so in a way that’s not going to be out of range and unaffordable for most Americans. Q    And I’ll ask you about what Hillary Clinton said yesterday.  She said, “If the election had been on October 27th, I would be your President.”  And on the Hill today, James Comey, testifying, said -- speaking about October 28th -- he said, “Would you speak, or would you conceal?”  Did James Comey make the right decision on October 28th? MR. SPICER:  Well, look, I’m a Patriots fan, and I think if games ended in the third quarter, there would have been a different team here last week.  But you play a game four quarters, you play an election until Election Day.  So with all due respect to her, that’s not how it works.  You don’t get to pick the day the election is on.  It’s set by the Constitution.  The President won 306 electoral votes.  And I think there’s been plenty of analysis on the election and where people chose to spend their time and their resources and their messaging.  And I think it’s somewhat sad that we’re still debating why the President won in the fashion that he did. Q    "Speak or conceal" -- did he make the correct decision? MR. SPICER:  I think, with respect to the election, I think the American people made their decision.   Eamon. Q    Thanks, Sean.  There’s been a lot of focus recently on Ivanka Trump’s role in this White House.  Can you clarify for us what exactly her areas of responsibility are here, and what her qualifications are for those responsibilities? MR. SPICER:  Sure.  I mean, I think Ivanka has built a very successful business.  She’s been working with women to talk about empowerment and education for quite some time.  It’s a passion of hers.  And I think for her to bring both her business acumen and success, her passion for women empowerment and education and entrance into areas that they haven’t been able to get to is one of the reasons that Chancellor Merkel reached out to her and asked her to come to the W20 Summit.   Because I think she can use her voice to help bring attention to issues.  She can use her resources and knowledge of individuals to help break down some barriers that young women, older women face in education and business.  That’s where she has always had her passion.  That’s what she’s working on now. Q    But what specifically are her responsibilities here?  For example, The New York Times reported this morning that she has a weekly meeting with the Treasury Secretary.  What’s that meeting for? MR. SPICER:  Again, I think that I’ve mentioned it.  I think there’s a lot of times where she’s meeting with folks to understand an issue, to get up to speed.  But I think her primary focus, which she has always said -- where her passion is, where her time is going to be spent -- is figuring out how to empower women, how to break down barriers for women -- whether that’s in small business, in education, young women in poverty or families, and figuring out how to help them. But of course, I mean, part of that is to have conversations with people in government and figure out what programs exist, where we can help additional folks using government, or fix a government program that might be not properly being utilized.  But there’s a lot of that. Matt. Q    Thank, Sean.  Back to healthcare.  An analysis from AARP showed that the sickest patients will pay nearly $26,000 a year in premiums under the new healthcare law, and that $8 billion, which was included in that amendment this morning, is not nearly enough to lower those costs.  So I’m wondering, how does that, which would be a major premium hike on the sickest patients, square with the President’s promise to both lower premiums and take care of those with preexisting conditions? MR. SPICER:  So it sounds interesting to me there are so many variables that are unknown -- that to make an analysis of that level of precision, it seems almost impossible. Q    But --  MR. SPICER:  Well, hold on.  Let me give you an example.  So right now preexisting conditions are covered in the bill.  They always have been.  We’ve talked about that before.  States have the right to receive a waiver.  If someone has continuous coverage, that’s never going to be an issue, regardless of -- no circumstance is anyone with continuous coverage would ever have a problem with preexisting conditions.  If someone chose not to have coverage for 63 days or more, and they were in a state that opted out, and they had a preexisting condition, and they were put into a high-risk pool, then we’ve allocated an additional $8 billion over five years to help drive down those costs. So for someone to know how many people that is, what number of states are going to receive a waiver -- ask for it, and receive a waiver is literally impossible at this point.  So to do an analysis of any level of factual basis would be literally not --  Q    Two follow-up questions.  One, would the President prefer -- does he have a preference as to whether or not states opt out, given that option?  And two, yes or no, will people with preexisting conditions pay higher premiums under this bill than they currently do? MR. SPICER:  I think everything that we’ve done, including the additional $8 billion this year -- everything that I’ve seen shows that the cost curve goes down for them in a lot of ways.  So if you have preexisting conditions -- and again, remember what a small pool that is.  If you have a preexisting condition currently, the bill protects you.  The only factor would be if you live in a state that potentially asks for a waiver and then is subsequently granted it, and if you’ve gone 63 days without continuous coverage. So if you have continuous coverage, if you live in a state, it’ll never, ever be a factor.  But the President has worked to make sure that in every single scenario -- anybody, everybody -- he has kept true to his word that preexisting conditions are covered and that the cost curve continues to bend down. Q    And then on the other question, the congressman, this morning, from Michigan was saying he’s confident, from conversations with his governor, that his state will not ask for a waiver.  Does the President have a preference as to whether or not states ask for waivers? MR. SPICER:  The President’s preference -- and I’m not -- the President believes in states’ rights, number one.  Number two, not just preference, his goal is to make sure, as he stated repeatedly, is that preexisting conditions are covered, care coverage goes up, and costs go down.  Those are the principles that continue to guide him. Cecilia. Q    Thank you.  I want to go back to Director Comey on the Hill today, and some things he said about Russia.  One of the things that he said was, the Russian government is still involved in American politics.  Is that the view of this White House?   MR. SPICER:  I think that's the view of the FBI.  I'm not -- Q    Is that different than the White House? MR. SPICER:  We rely on them and the rest of the intelligence community to provide the President with updates on what they're learning.  So it doesn’t go that way.  The director and the intelligence community update the President on all of the threats that the United States faces and all of the intelligence activity that needs to be briefed.   Q    And in that particular one, does then he accept that assessment from the FBI? MR. SPICER:  Again, I don’t know what he has briefed the President on.  I'm not trying to be coy on this, but I'm just saying, like, I don’t know what he recently briefed or how -- I know that the question was asked during the testimony.  I don’t know what new evidence, beyond what they shared with the President in the December, has happened between then and now. Q    Okay, and just one more thing on that front.  He called Russia "the greatest threat of any nation on Earth."  Is that something the President agrees with? MR. SPICER:  The President has been very clear that he thinks the threat that North Korea poses with the potential nuclear weapon that has range capacity is something that he finds to be threatening to the lives of Americans and our allies. Alexis. Q    Sean, I have two healthcare questions.  Can I follow up on what you were saying about the President's conversation with Congressman Upton?  Until yesterday, the President thought there was sufficient funding, and Congressman Upton came to him and suggested a billion dollars more.  You were just saying that it's impossible to estimate what would be needed.  My question is, why did the President think that there was sufficient protection for those individuals who have preexisting health conditions yesterday, but today he now believes $8 billion will cover it?  What persuaded him that the number that he had embraced yesterday was not sufficient and that $8 billion is going to do it? MR. SPICER:  So, in this particular case, Congressman Upton and I think Congressman Long addressed that he, through a series of conversations that he had with the President, shared with the President a concern that he had in their shared goal of covering preexisting conditions.  The President, as Congressman Long discussed outside, expressed that -- the President expressed to him that the preexisting conditions were covered, and went through the various scenarios.  Congressman Long felt as though there were scenarios in which -- potentially the high-risk pool.  It wasn’t a question of coverage, it was a question of cost.  And so the President engaged in a conversation with them and, through some of the analysis that Congressman Upton and Congressman Long had done, the President agreed that if we add an additional safety net, which is, frankly, what that is -- not on the coverage, but on the cost -- that that could ensure that the cost curve gets further bent downward.  And the President agreed. Because at the end of the day -- look, the President has talked about this from the beginning, that he wants to work with members to make it the strongest possible bill, to have the strongest outcome for the American people, and a healthcare system in which both the cost continue to go down.  And I think that's one point, Alexis, that we keep forgetting in this discussion with what we're trying to do.  It's not just replace Obamacare.  Obamacare is dying on the vine.  The costs are spiraling out of control, deductibles are going up, and carriers -- again, this isn’t a theoretical discussion.  Aetna, as we just discussed, is pulling out of states, and counties around the country are now going down to one and, in some cases, zero choices. So this isn’t a question of just replacing something.  We are actually at a point where if we don’t do something, some people in this country will have no options for coverage.  We've got to do something, and that's where the President has been willing to work with members, pick up the phone, and figure out how do we get this done to make sure that every American has got the coverage that they need. Q    I want to also ask about the next step.  There are members of the House who are concerned on the Republican side that they could vote for something that will change dramatically in the Senate.  What is the President's message to those members who are concerned about that?  Is he going to press the Senate to embrace whatever may or may not come out, but you hope may come out of the House? MR. SPICER:  Well, of course.  I mean -- Q    Would be adopted by the Senate in whole. MR. SPICER:  I mean, I think the legislative process works -- the Senate will take up the House bill and then they'll go to conference.  And then that’s when both sides, again, will have an opportunity to discuss any potential changes.  The President feels really good about where this bill -- how this bill has evolved, how much stronger it's become, to achieve the goals that he set out.  And he'll continue to work with Leader McConnell and others when it gets to the Senate to make sure that anything -- and there could be issues that come between now and then.  But our number-one goal is to get it out of the House, focus, and then have those conversations with the Senate, and then go to conference.   But for right now -- and in a perfect world, they would just take it straight up and we would go.  But I have a feeling the Senate is going to want a say at this, so we'll go from there. John. Q    Thanks a lot, Sean.  Chairman Upton and Congressman Long were very pleased to (inaudible) floor with this legislative fix.  They say they've turned their "nos" into "yeses."  Do you believe there's additional legislative fixes that are still to come before this bill actually hits the House floor? MR. SPICER:  Look, the President always said he's willing to hear ideas.  This is a question for Speaker Ryan, Leader McCarthy, and Congressman Scalise in terms of when is the appropriate time.  If they feel that they've gotten to a place where they have the votes necessary to take it to the floor based on the number of suggestions and fixes and updates, then that will be up to them.  But I'm not going to prejudge, in this case, through those conversations -- and the President has constantly been on the phone for the last several days and continues to do so, to hear members' issues and concerns.  And so if there's a point -- but I think we're getting to that number closer and closer.  But that will be ultimately a decision that Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy have to make.   Q    Sean, on timing, I've heard different things from the President over the course of the past two weeks.  At one point I heard the President say he wants the bill to be taken up now; other times, it's not important, just get the bill right.  What's your view?  Is it very important, as far as the administration is concerned, that this vote take place sooner rather than later? MR. SPICER:  Well, obviously, the sooner the better, right? But we don't want to put it up for a vote -- I mean, the goal is to pass it, which we continue to get closer and closer to every day.  But you don't want to put it up and not move forward.  So the President wants to make sure that the leadership is confident that it can pass a bill, and I think he’s done everything he can in terms of speaking with members of the House to get there.  But ultimately, it's going to be their decision to do it.  And I think we continue to feel optimistic about the direction that we've seen the legislation go. Mike. Q    I want to revisit the President’s comments in his tweets about the omnibus spending bill.  He campaigned on his business record, on his ability to make good deals, make better deals than politicians in the past have.  Does the President view the spending bill as a good deal? MR. SPICER:  Yes.   Kristen. Q    Sean, can you say definitively that no one with a preexisting condition will pay more under the amendment? MR. SPICER:  I think we've done everything we can to do that.  And every measure that the President has taken further not only ensures that people with preexisting conditions get covered in every scenario, but does so in a way that bends the cost curve down.   Q    Can you guarantee it? MR. SPICER:  I think -- with all due respect, to answer a question and say can I guarantee something -- but I can tell you that every single thing that the President has done, including the action that he took this morning to work with members of Congress, does everything by every account to bend the cost curve down, to help anybody that would potentially fall into that small group of individuals to get -- to bend the cost curve down who have preexisting conditions. So the answer is, yes, that we have done every single thing possible to get that down and to ensure that, number one, that that potential is as small as possible.  Because the bill covers people with preexisting conditions, number one.  Number two, it does everything to ensure that if a state seeks a waiver that they are still covered.  But it looks at every single possibility to ensure that people get the care that they need. Q    Is there a concern -- you criticized former President Obama rushing through his healthcare plan.  Is this not being rushed through?  This legislation hasn't even been scored yet by the CBO or put up for public debate -- this latest piece of legislation. MR. SPICER:  Well, every piece of legislation evolves as it goes through the process.  We saw that this morning.  I think we had a piece that makes it an even stronger bill.  But the underlying principles that we have been talking about have been something that Republicans have been talking about and have had the contours of for the last seven years.  This was something that has been part of the process for a long time. Q    Does he expect to see a vote this week? MR. SPICER:  The President -- I've answered this a lot of times.  The President expects to see a vote when the Speaker and the Leader and the Whip call a vote because they believe they have the votes to go on. John. Q    Sean, it looks like we're on the precipice of a vote on the omnibus spending bill.  Senator Lindsey Graham said a short time ago that Republicans got their clocks cleaned on this bill. It looks like as many as 100 House Republicans will vote against it.  How do you square that with the pronouncements out of this White House that this was a big win for Republicans? MR. SPICER:  I think Director Mulvaney addressed that extensively yesterday.  But to get back to Mike’s point, this is a good deal -- a great deal for the President.  He got $21 billion in military funding.  That is a huge campaign pledge that he made very clearly to modernize and update the military.  It fully funds the largest military pay raise in six years.  It ends the Obama-era sequestration policy of pairing increases in domestic spending for every dollar to dollar.  It got $1.52 billion in border security, which is the first installment in securing our nation’s southern border.  It got $1.3 billion to coalminers, which delivers on another promise that he made.  There’s no Obama bailout -- Obamacare bailout, those CSR payments, which was something that the Democrats wanted.  There’s a three-year extension of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Choice, which -- you saw the children that will benefit from that this morning.  It increases funds for the opioid crisis.  It eliminates, rescinds and terminates 150 programs or initiatives. I think when you -- and Director Mulvaney laid this out yesterday -- when you look at what the President came forward with a month or so ago and said these are my priorities, he got what he asked for.  And I think that's big.  So this is a -- the President feels very good about what he got.   And again, I think it's important to underscore two points. Number one, in the Senate we needed 60 votes.  This had to be a bipartisan action because it is a spending bill, so, therefore, we needed to get Democratic votes with us.  But if you look at -- as Director Mulvaney pointed out yesterday -- it used to be a one-for-one spending increase if we wanted a military increase.  We got that down from a dollar to 20 cents.  That is a huge win for the President.  He negotiated a fairly strong deal when it comes to what they got versus what we got. The other thing that's important to understand is that this is just the final five months of FY18 [FY17].  Any President coming into office wouldn't get the first shot at a budget until the end of September of the year after they got elected.  So, in theory, he got to push for his priorities -- military spending, border security, D.C. schools -- all the things I mentioned right out of the gate.  And for the last five months of this fiscal year, something that should have happened during the Obama administration, he got his priorities -- a down payment on them. Q    Quick second topic, if I could.  This is at least the fourth White House, fourth administration in a row that has come in with optimistic predictions of how Middle East peace will go. What’s going to be different this time? MR. SPICER:  I think the man is different.  You look at what -- the President’s diplomacy style is paying dividends, whether it's getting someone who has been held for years in Egypt released; whether it's the action that China has taken.  The relationships and the foundation that the President is rebuilding are going to pay huge dividends for this country in terms of our economic interest, our national security interest.  But this President’s style is one to develop a personal bond with individuals.  And I think you saw that today with President Abbas, him talking so kindly about the President.  You saw that.  The relationship that exists and is only getting stronger between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  You have two individuals who, because of this President, are increasing their desire for peace.   You’ve got an individual in President Xi in China that has taken fairly significant action to help the -- work with the United States, especially with respect to our desire to end the threat in North Korea that has been unprecedented.  The President’s ability to connect with an individual, to work with them towards a shared goal, to have back-room diplomacy is something that is going to continue to pay dividends and get results for this country.   Q    Can I follow up on John’s question? MR. SPICER:  Charlie. Q    In January, the President did an interview deriding the "little toy walls" along the southern border -- that's a quote -- and said, I don't know why they’re even wasting their time.  Why is the government focused so much on existing border security measures rather than fighting for the wall that he promised that he would build? MR. SPICER:  Thank you for the opportunity to show you some things.  So if I can get the first image up.  (Laughter.)  You asked.     Q    Did you guys coordinate? MR. SPICER:  No.  But, you literally could not have (inaudible) on it.  This is what exists right now throughout our country.  This is the kind of barrier that exists throughout the country.  You see a place where cars can literally create little things and drive over.  You’ve got places that can get burrowed under.  That one they’ve cut through.  That one doesn’t seem to be too effective at keeping people.  Those images represent our nation’s current border security. According to a GA report from earlier this year, from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2015, the Customs and Border Patrol recorded a total of 9,287 breaches in pedestrian fencing at an average cost of $784 per breach to repair, right.  So every time that they cut through, break through, put something over, it’s costing just under a thousand bucks for us to go out and have to fix. Now, to the next slide.  (Laughter.)  You had no idea you were getting this, did you? So the bill that is about to get passed, Title 6 -- which pertains to the Department of Homeland Security’s funding on additional appropriation -- states that an additional $497.4 million “for procurement, construction, and improvements.”  Of that total, $341.2 million are to -- and this is literally what it says in the bill -- “to replace approximately 40 miles of existing primary pedestrian and vehicle border fencing along the southwest border using previously deployed and operationally effective designs such as currently deployed steel bollard designs that prioritize agent safety.”  So that’s your answer, Charlie. Q    So -- MR. SPICER:  So hold on, hold on, let me just -- we have a porous border right now with broken fences, things that can be cut through, places that can just literally be driven over.  And to replace this with a 20-foot high bollard wall will protect our country, something that the DHS has designated the most effective way to do this.  So that’s what we got out of this bill. Q    Just one question about the photos.  Are those photos of fences or walls? MR. SPICER:  That is called a bollard wall.  That is called a levy wall. Q    So that’s the wall the President promised? MR. SPICER:  No, no, no -- there are various types of walls that can be built.  Under the legislation that was just passed, it allows us to do that. Q    What's that? MR. SPICER:  That is called a levy wall on the left.  That is called a bollard wall. Q    So that’s not a wall, it’s a levy wall? MR. SPICER:  That’s what it’s actually called.  That’s the name of it. Q    He's building fencing, not a wall. MR. SPICER:  No, no.  In this current bill, it allows us to do the following.  So to be clear, in several areas along our southern border we have what was in the first slide, which are areas in which someone can literally cut through with a pair of wire cutters or put a little barrier over that a car can drive over the top.  Okay?  What we’ve done is taken the tools that we have to replace -- and if you look at that one in particular, you’ve got a chain-link fence is what is currently at our southern border.  That is literally down there now.  We are able to go in there, and instead of having a chain-link fence, replace it with that bollard wall.  That's what it is.   Q    But it’s not the wall the President promised? MR. SPICER:  No, no, hold on.  Hold on, Jim.  We’re going to take turns.  But just to be clear -- because Charlie asked the same thing so I’ll give you a little help on this one -- that this is the 2017 budget.  This is a down payment on what the President is going to prioritize in the 2018 budget that starts October 1st. And as I mentioned to John Roberts, the idea that we even got a shot at this is something that should have been done last term under President Obama.  We have an opportunity to use the last five months of the FY17 budget to get the President’s priorities jumpstarted.  So he is using the current bill to get his priorities moving and put it down. To answer the question, it is currently being built in Naco, Arizona; Sunland Park, New Mexico; and we are going to be starting to do this in San Diego, El Paso, and Rio Grande Valley. Q    So you’re basically just telling supporters, the President’s supporters, to be satisfied with this existing tough-guy fencing until he’s ready to build the wall? MR. SPICER:  No.  What I’m telling anybody is that the President said he was going to build the wall and he’s doing it, and he’s using the best technology and what the Department of Homeland Security, under Secretary John Kelly, says is the most effective way to keep people out, to stop drugs, to stop cartels, to stop human trafficking, and to prevent illegal immigration.  That’s what I’m telling you. Q    Mahmoud Abbas stood next to the President today and said he wants to see East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian State.  Yesterday, Vice President Pence said you’re still looking at moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  What is the White House view on those remarks?  I mean, we didn’t hear anything from President Trump in response to that. MR. SPICER:  I think the Vice President, as you noted, commented yesterday that it’s still something that is being discussed and considered by the President.  It will continue to be a discussion that he has with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.  But obviously, we’re not going to -- Q    On the Palestinian --  MR. SPICER:  Again, I’m not going to -- they had a series of private discussions.  That is why the President is able to effectively get things done for this country is to not negotiate out in public.  He’s going to continue to have discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas moving forward, and he feels confident about where that relationship was and developments that were made today. Q    He doesn’t object to what President Abbas said, it’s just not decided? MR. SPICER:  It’s not a question of not decided.  I’m not going to negotiate what they are talking about in private from this podium.  So that’s --- Q    (Inaudible.)  That’s why I’m asking. MR. SPICER:  I understand it.  I’m just telling you that we are not going to negotiate from the podium. Jim. Q    Just to follow up on the President’s meeting with Abbas, he did say at one point, “Frankly,” talking about Middle East peace and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “maybe it’s not as difficult as people have thought.”  Why does he believe that the toughest -- arguably the toughest foreign policy challenge in our lifetime may not be as difficult as people have thought? MR. SPICER:  I think both of these leaders have very publicly expressed the confidence they have in the President’s negotiating skills, in the President’s desire to work to get peace, the relationship that he’s built with them individually and the trust and respect that they have for him. And I think that he, in discussions with them, in private discussions with them, feels very optimistic about the shared goal that everybody has.  Obviously, there’s a lot of issues that have to get covered, but the President understands that they respect his ability to want to get this done -- his relationships and respect that have been developed. And I think this is something that he really wants to have happen. Q    And getting back to healthcare, why even monkey around with preexisting conditions?  That’s the most popular thing in Obamacare.  Why are you guys spinning your wheels messing around with preexisting conditions? MR. SPICER:  I wouldn’t call it “messing around,” or however you phrased it.  I think the President wants to do everything -- Q    Right now, people with preexisting conditions are covered.  They’re not discriminated against. MR. SPICER:  No, no, just hold on -- Q    You’re going to change to a system where who the hell knows what’s going to happen.  It depends on what state they live in.  If they live in this state over here, that governor may seek a waiver and all of a sudden they’re thrown into this system where hopefully that fund is going to cover their preexisting conditions.  It is a big change for people who live with those kinds of illnesses, is it not? MR. SPICER:  Well, look, the big change -- I guess we have a very different view of this.  Because my view, and I think the President’s view, is that Obamacare -- if you have a preexisting condition and you no longer have a healthcare provider, or your premiums or deductible are going through the roof, then you don’t have coverage.   And we just read it out.  I mean, I don’t -- if you have -- Q    So you’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.   MR. SPICER:  No, no, what I'm saying to you right now -- Q    Repeal Obamacare because you’re saying it’s not working, but then why change preexisting conditions?   MR. SPICER:  We're not.  No, no, we’re strengthening -- I think -- look, we have done everything to not only strengthen but to guarantee -- Q    Is it strengthening it if -- MR. SPICER:  Absolutely.  Q    -- a governor can say, here’s my waiver and no more preexisting conditions? MR. SPICER:  Sure you can.  Jim, I walked through this.  But I think the fundamental point that seems to be getting lost is that if you have Obamacare right now, in case after case you are losing it.  So if you have a preexisting condition and you have a card that says “Obamacare” but no one will see you or you can’t afford it, then you don’t have coverage. Q    Why not fix that?   MR. SPICER:  We are.  We’re guaranteeing it.  But I don’t know how much -- Q    Why does the preexisting condition component have to be altered?  Why not just keep that protection in place? MR. SPICER:  The President has made it very clear that preexisting conditions are covered in the bill under every scenario.  I don’t know how much clearer we can state it. Q    So anybody who has a preexisting condition under Trumpcare, they’re going to be fine, without question? MR. SPICER:  Yes.   Q    Thank you, Sean.  I want to follow up on healthcare.  I just want to know why the White House is pushing so hard for a vote on this healthcare bill at a time when, as you just said a few minutes ago, it’s literally impossible to analyze its impact on the healthcare system.  Why not wait for that analysis to come out? MR. SPICER:  The vote is going to happen, as I’ve said, like eight times now, when the Speaker and the Majority Leader and the Majority Whip want to.  Our job is to work as hard as we can to work with members of Congress who want to see their healthcare system improved.  That’s what we’re doing.  That’s what we’ve done.  And so it will be up to the House leadership to decide when to vote. Zeke. Q    Thanks, Sean.  Two questions for you; one following on Jordan real quick.  You just made a guarantee to the American people on behalf of the President regarding preexisting conditions, but you told Matt and then Jordan earlier that it's literally impossible to know the impact of this law.  So how can you make that guarantee? MR. SPICER:  No, no, he was asking -- they were asking about cost.  The President has made it very clear on numerous occasions that he’s going to make sure that preexisting conditions are covered. Q    And so then the White House has the analysis to back that up, is what you’re saying? MR. SPICER:  In every scenario, yes.   Q    And then to just follow up on something that Director Mulvaney said yesterday regarding the President’s tweet about calling for a “good shutdown” potentially in September.  He said the reason the President sent that tweet was he was frustrated by Democrats spiking the football and thereby poisoning the well for future negotiations.  The President, when he was campaigning, said he was going to win for all Americans.  Why did the President’s feelings matter at all? MR. SPICER:  It’s the process that I think he’s frustrated with.  Because he does want to win for every American, and I think that’s why he’s fought so hard for this.  But you’ve seen time and time again Democrats obstruct routine things that they supposedly are for, but do everything they can to obstruct.  I think the President is frustrated with the system.  He’s talked about how archaic it is in the Senate in particular.  Because he’s out there working to try to get, whether it’s healthcare or tax reform or his Cabinet, through the Senate. There are various things that the President is trying to do that are -- issues when he’s having conversations with members of the Senate or the House who will say, I’m with you on this great idea but I just can’t vote with you.  He is, I think, understandably frustrated with how hard he’s working to achieve the promises, goals and objectives that he set out with the American people to make the country better and to deal with multiple layers of obstructionism. Sarah. Q    Thanks, Sean.  So you’ve cited the 60-vote threshold as a reason why funding for the wall wasn’t pursued in this spending bill, but what’s going to be different in September?  I mean, presumably the legislative conditions would be the same, so what will change between now and September to give you confidence that we’ll get funding for the border wall then? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think there’s multiple things.  When you come in -- this CR, there was a lot that was already carried over from last time in terms of the -- because it’s not just a continuing resolution, it’s a total omnibus package, meaning that there are multiple bills that are a part of the underlying package that already have increases or underlying policy in them from the previous fiscal year, from the previous Congress, from the President administration. This bill will reflect in 2018 the President’s priorities in working with a Republican House and Senate.  Thank you guys very much.  We’ll see you tomorrow in New York.  Have a good one.  END  3:05 P.M. EDT

03 мая, 17:35

Speaker Ryan Touts Conservative Wins in Funding Bill with Hugh Hewitt

Summary: Today, Speaker Ryan joined The Hugh Hewitt Show, where he discussed how the government funding bill will reduce EPA employment levels, include no new money for Obamacare, and increase defense spending and border security. Listen to the full interview here. EPA reform“There are no funds for this grant to the climate front, so we have no funds going to the Green Climate Fund, which was kind of an Obama-era pet project. We reduced the EPA staffing levels to pre-Obama, back to 1989. So we knocked the staff down to what we had in 1989. So there are the people who I would argue are kicking out regulations that are harmful to the economy. This gets at that. There are things in the EPA that deal with infrastructure. Those things are maintained, because you know, their infrastructure things are important. But we defund, we zero out the Green Climate Fund, knock the employment levels back to 1989 levels.” No new money for Obamacare“There are no CSR payments here. Those are called cost-sharing reduction payments. Those aren’t in here. And obviously, the Democrats wanted that, and we didn’t do that.” A win for defense“If you look year over year from 2016, it’s $25 [billion] based on what we did earlier in the year. ... What we really wanted to do is break the parity requirement that we endured under Obama, where if you wanted to put a dollar into the military for a ship, for a plane, for bullets, for gas, you had to give the domestic spending of federal government another dollar. That is the parity requirement we lived under with Obama. It held the military hostage for more bloated domestic spending. We broke that parity, and that to me, is the biggest thing here. That is the biggest accomplishment. I negotiated the Murray-Ryan budget deal four years ago, and we lived under the fact that with a Democrat president, and in many cases, a Democrat Senate, we had to hit parity. We broke that. We don’t have parity. We’ve got a big Defense increase. It’s a really good down payment. ... That’s very important. And that, to me, the breaking of that parity requirement shows that we’re now back to fixing defense, and we’re not going to allow it to be held hostage for more bloated domestic spending.” Increase in border security“It’s actually the biggest increase in border security in a decade. It gets spent by a whole number of things. Mick [Mulvaney] ran through it. They call it bollard fencing, which is what, in many areas, the border security thinks is the smartest way to go so you can see through it, so you can see what’s happening on the other side of the border. . . . It’s also cameras. It’s detention facilities. We have an increase in detention facilities so we can end catch and release. There are lots of things that are in here like this to help us get a huge down payment on border security. . . . fences, cameras, people, more ICE agents, more detention beds, those kinds of things.”

02 мая, 16:19

Zynga (ZNGA) to Report Q1 Earnings: What's in the Cards?

Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) is set to report first-quarter 2017 results on May 4.

02 мая, 12:20

Congress Must Put the Obamacare Pin Back in the Grenade

The best way to safeguard health insurance for millions is to make cost-sharing reduction payments permanent.

02 мая, 02:23

Press Call by Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short With Conservative Media on the Funding Bills

Via Conference Call 6:31 P.M. EDT MR. SHORT:  I’ll be real quick, guys, and get to your questions.  But last night, as you know, appropriators reached agreement in principle on the omnibus legislation that will fund the government through September of 2017.  This was a -- obviously the process that started last year, a continuing resolution was passed.  We are pleased that there are several elements in this 2017 bill we were able to secure, including $21 billion in additional funding for our military.  As you know, the President campaigned and promised that he would rebuild the military, and this is the first major step in that direction.  We’d also promised on the campaign trail a commitment to border security and secured $1.5 billion toward that end, and we can walk through some of the details on that in a minute.  We were pleased that the legislation did not include CSR, which, as you know, are the cost-sharing reductions or, as others have defined them, the Obamacare bailout dollars to insurance companies. We, as well, were able to secure funding to continue school choice in Washington, D.C. as we secured funding for three years for that.  Likewise, another commitment that the President made on the campaign trail to support school choice, and very excited about that development. One of the other elements that Democrats had brought into the discussion at the very end was an effort to renew tax credits for renewable energy, and we were able to fight off that request, too.   From a process perspective, before we take questions, just want to -- I think there’s a lot of questions about things that we had asked for and were not able to secure.  It’s important to recall that in this process we will need 60 votes in the United States Senate, and therefore their legislation will need to be bipartisan.  A challenge for us, of course, is that, if we wanted to stick with simply partisan legislation and just get a CR that continued baseline funding through September this year, we would never have secured the additional funding for the border security, the additional funding for our military, and we would also not have secured the funding for school choice in D.C.  Additionally, what we’re also pleased with is that we were able to keep the spending caps in place, so those were not exceeded with this legislation. That’s it for my intro.  Why don’t we go ahead and take questions. Q    Just a quick question on the border security funding.  Does the administration view these funds as the groundwork for the border wall, and can you get into a little bit of detail about where the President would like to see this money go? MR. SHORT:  Well, there are limitations about where the dollars can go, but there’s, I think, or has been some misreporting on what it is for and what it is not for.  Much of this funding will provide for additional technology that helps to secure our border.  Additionally, it does provide for fencing and border barriers, so there are some physical elements to this.  It includes funding for things such as levies, which are obviously quite critical along certain areas of the Rio Grande Valley. It does include, as well, significant funding to increase the number of detention beds, which is, of course, important for the deportation element of our border security, and includes additional funding for roads and maintenance that actually is essential to begin to lay the foundation for the construction of the wall. So, yes, this, in many ways, as we described it, is a first step.  We know that FY’18 will be a bigger opportunity for us to make the case to the American public as to why a border wall is important, and you will continue to see us make the case not just to the American people, but put it in our FY’18 request. I think, in FY’17, because we joined this process, obviously, halfway through the year, we were probably not able to make the case to the American public as focused as we would like to, but we will be making that case on the border wall from here on out. Q    Thank you. MR. SHORT:  Yep. Thank you for taking the question.  Would you please expand on the meaning of no additional funding for the insurers under Obamacare? MR. SHORT:  Sure.  One of the things that the Democrats had asked for was for funding for insurance companies to prop up Obamacare, known as the CSR payment.  That is something that they had asked for -- several billion dollars.  It’s about $7 to $8 billion annually that has been in those payments.  We are in the process -- as you know, House Republicans challenged those payments in a court of law and won.  It is on appeal at this point, and we have reserved judgment on that program moving forward. As you know, the President has said he does not think that we should bail out Obamacare and does not think that we should continue these payments indefinitely.  What the Democrats in Congress are looking to do is to tie the hands of the administration and to write them into law.  And as I say, that court case is on appeal at the moment. Q    So what’s the upshot of the failure to provide the additional funding the Democrats were asking for? MR. SHORT:  One, it continues to -- well, one, is they’re looking to taxpayers to bail out insurance companies who are paying these subsidies to keep exchange rates lower, exchange premiums lower.  While obviously we’re sympathetic to that, we’ve always believed the way to keep rates lower is through competition, not through government subsidies.   So we maintain our position as to what the proper policy will be, and we’re hopeful that when we’re able to pass the repeal and replace of Obamacare that that will create a better market that will keep rates lower.  And the way not to do it is through government-forced subsidies that taxpayers are funding.   So as I say, that is -- the upshot right now is that is has not been authorized and appropriated in binding the government to continue to make those payments.   Q    I have a question.  I’m under the impression -- or I was under the impression -- not being a budgetary expert -- that you could pass the budget with 50 votes and dispense with the need for a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.  Am I incorrect in that?  And were you getting any pressure from Senate Republicans over any of this? MR. SHORT:  So you are correct that as far as the budget reconciliation process, you can pass a budget with 50 votes, but this is an appropriations bill and so we would need to have 60 votes to get it completed. Q    I hear that the budget will be regarded as very depressing news by many conservatives.  I’m wondering -- because, well, from what I’ve heard already, just chatter from friends.  MR. SHORT:  Well, I wouldn’t encourage -- I don’t know who your friends are or if they’re in the administration, but I think when Mick Mulvaney laid out our FY’17 budget, there was certainly things in there that many conservatives were excited about.  I’d be happy to forward you commentary to that extent.  I regret that we’re not able at this point, with the narrow margin we have in the Senate, to get all the spending cuts that we would like to get, but you will continue to see us fight for those in 2018. So I’m sorry if you fear that it won’t be that, but I’d encourage you to reserve judgment. Q    Okay, thank you.   Q    I’m wondering about funding for Planned Parenthood.  Is it still a priority of the President to defund Planned Parenthood?  And what is going to be the mechanism for that going forward? MR. SHORT:  Thank you for the question.  I should have addressed that in my intro.  I think that the President, as you know, has remained committed to life.  We’ve received many -- a lot of praise from the pro-life community for the President’s statements in reversal of Mexico City policy.  You’ve also seen him support legislation in the Congressional Review Act that addressed Title 10 funding, which, as you know, provides funding to Planned Parenthood and gives states more flexibility in the organizations that they choose. As you know, as well, the defunding of Planned Parenthood is part of the Obamacare repeal and replace effort.  And so while there’s been commentary about a lack of a rider on the appropriations bill to defund Planned Parenthood, we’ve always felt the place to do that is in the healthcare legislation.  And that’s what we’ve tried to do.   Additionally, this legislation continues to maintain and protect Hyde Amendment protections on life and so taxpayers will be protected from funding abortions.   Q    Thank you. MR. SHORT:  Thanks for the question.   END 6:41 P.M. EDT

01 мая, 22:33

Press Briefing by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  5:33 P.M. EDT Q    That’s a great suit. DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Thank you very much.  I took a little hard time for this suit today in a staff meeting.  The New York guys think it’s a little too -- (laughter) -- everybody around here has the -- I think it's a very South Carolina suit, don’t you think?   Q    It wasn’t just the New York guys who thought that.  (Laughter.)   DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Since the creative element in most of the wardrobe around here looks like this.  This is what everybody has. Look, just take a couple minutes and then take your questions.  We were sitting in the office earlier today watching some of the reports about what we’ll call the FY17 funding bill. You can call it whatever you want to, that’s what we’ll call it here.  And I saw how the Democrats thought they did a great job and how they think we didn’t.  I think it’s great that the Democrats like the bill.  That’s fantastic.  We thought it was a really good deal for this administration as well.  We’ll talk about that here today.   I want to start by asking people to go back a couple of months to September of 2016, the last time we were talking about funding for all of fiscal year ’17.  There was some discussion at that time when President Obama was still here abound funding the government for the entire fiscal year ’17.  Can you imagine how different this bill is from what the bill that President Obama would have signed back in September?  And it’s those differences that I want to talk about today, and those differences that summarize why we think this was a really solid bill for the administration. What did we get more money for?  We got more money for defense.  We got more money for border security.  We got more money for school choice.  Looking around here, many of you were here in March when I came out for the very first time to talk about our budget blueprint.  What did we ask for more money for? Defense, border security, school choice.   So everything that we got in this deal yesterday, last night, lines up perfectly with the President’s priorities -- $21 billion of new spending for defense.  I can -- excuse me, I’ll put my glasses on -- that’s $9 billion to address immediate war-fighting readiness requirements, $2.5 billion for munitions, war consumerables and spare parts; $1.4 billion to modify existing deployable weapons systems.  And you can go on again and again. We got -- we’re going to buy more MV-22 helicopters.  We’re going to buy more Apache attack helicopters.  We’re going to buy all sorts of stuff this President has indicated we need and General Mattis wants to help rebuild the military.  $21 billion is a huge increase.  We had asked for $30 billion, we got $21 billion. By the way, I heard a report today that said it was $12.5.  I don’t know if The Washington Post is here -- I think they were the first to report that.  I’m not sure where that number comes from.  We sort of dug into it and somebody said, well, it’s really only $15 billion in OCO money, but $2.5 billion of it is contingent on the administration supplying a strategy to defeat ISIS.  We fully expect to be able to satisfy the requirements of the ISIS plan, and we fully expect for that whole $15 billion in OCO to be delivered. That’s in addition to the $6 billion that was already underlying DOD approps bill.  That’s how we get to the $21 billion.  In fact, if you want to -- and some outlets reported this -- if you want to compare it to the FY’16 levels, year over year, it’s a $25 billion increase over FY’16.  So it’s a tremendous increase in the defense budget. As far as border security, yeah, we agreed I think it was last Monday to not continue to push for bricks and mortar for the wall.  What did we get as part of this deal?  We got $1.522 billion additional dollars, okay?  That’s not the whole funding for the border security this year, this is just additional money. And we’ll be able to use that on things like maintenance on the existing wall -- infrastructure, roads, bridges, gates, technology, lighting -- things that will have a material impact on border security this year. One of the reasons that we agreed to remove the request -- to withdraw the request for the time-being about bricks and mortar was that this is only a five-month plan.  And once we looked our hands over, we realized it was almost impossible, if not impossible, to actually get bricks and mortar on the ground in five months, so why start fighting about it now.  Let’s focus on thing we can do in this fiscal year, in the next five months, to secure the border.  So we thought that was a nice pickup for us. And then finally, school choice.  You’ve heard the President talk about it, and so often, candidates only talk about school choice during election cycles, because folks who are motivated by school choice really turn out the vote.  This President is going to make it part of his first major piece of legislation that he’s signing.  So when he signs this on Thursday or Friday, whenever they send it down, he’s going to have a three-year authorization for the D.C. school choice project, which is a tremendous message to the school choice community that the President is following through on his promises on that. In fact, that’s what this is.  Again, when he signs this legislation, more money for defense, more money for border security, more money for school choice -- exactly what he said he would do.  So if you’ve all got specific questions that’s fine, but we’re very pleased with the bill.   Yes, sir. Q    Aren’t you going to have the same problem funding the wall in five months when they start looking at this again?  Because the opposition seems pretty entrenched. DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Well, you know, a lot can happen in five months.  Maybe we can prove to folks in both parties that we’re serious about this and that the border wall is not just some campaign concept, it’s real, and that we’re serious about securing the border.  So maybe if we do a really good job deploying the technology, deploying the -- or making the maintenance and stuff that this bill provides for, maybe it will help convince people that this is not just demagoguery.  We are serious about securing the border.  And maybe that will help folks come to our side of things. Q    Thanks.  This bill, as you know, obviously, also includes continued funding for Planned Parenthood and the Obamacare subsidies that you all have talked about, or as the President had talked about, being withheld are in here.  So while -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Half of that is right, half of that is not. Q    Okay, so can you just -- can you speak to some of the things that were funded that Republicans -- many Republicans were hoping to attack in this bill that haven’t been targeted to the degree that the President said that -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Let’s talk about Planned Parenthood on one hand and then we’ll talk about the Obamacare subsidies on the other.  In fact, let’s deal with the other one first.  That was the Democrats’ top priority, was to secure the continued Obamacare payments, and the bill doesn’t do that.  We didn’t -- the bill does not address the CSR payments.  That was a major demand that they gave up.  We thought it was appropriate, because we gave up on our primary demand, which was bricks and mortar.  So I thought that was the proper functioning of a negotiation.  So I’ve seen in a couple places where some Democrats are saying that the bill covers CSR payments, and it does not. As to Planned Parenthood, yeah, it does fund that.  It absolutely does.  And we were concerned about that to begin with and then thought it through and had a chance to talk with some pro-life leaders both on the Hill and then off the Hill from some of the outside groups.  I think everybody came to one realization, which is that if you’re serious -- if you’re a lawmaker serious about voting to defund Planned Parenthood, then your opportunity to do that is in the AHCA, the American Healthcare Act, which the House is currently debating right now. So we decided not to fight the Planned Parenthood battle on this funding bill because it’s contained in the AHCA, which we hope to take up this week as well.  Q    Could you explain again -- sorry -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I can try, if I remember what I said the first time.  (Laughter.)   Q    -- how you got from 15 to 21?  Because you’re right, that is being reported as 15. DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Yeah.  Here’s how it works, is that there are $15 billion in what we call new OCO money, new OCO -- Overseas Contingency Operation requests.  Add that to the $6 billion of additional OCO funding that is contained in the DOD appropriations bill -- remember this is an omnibus bill, so what they did is they took together a bunch of different bills and made it one big bill.  In the Department of Defense appropriation bill that got added to make the omni, there was an additional $6 billion worth of OCO already.  So you take that $6 billion, and do it with what we call the supplemental $15 billion, and that's how you get to the $21 billion.  Got it?   Yes, ma’am. Q    How does this agreement for fiscal ’17 affect your fiscal ’18 calculation?  Or does it?  And will that still be out in mid-May? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I don't think it affects the calculations.  Yes, it will come out in May.  So I don't know if that answers your question that easily or not.  I don't think it affects the calculations. Q    So you didn't get as much bricks and mortar wall funding in this bill.  Will that up your request for the ’18? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  No, because again, keep in mind, a lot of this is time, right?  This bill is for five months.  Next year’s bill is for 12 months.  And oftentimes, whether it’s a wall or military defense or whatever, it’s how much money do you plan on spending on that thing during that period of time. So we hope to have it when we do roll out our 2018 budget, which will be in late May.  There will be a proposal for wall funding in that.  But I don't think you’ll see a change because of the outcome here.  That's as much money as we expect to be able to spend on bricks and mortar on a wall in 12 months of next year. Q    How much are you going to ask for the wall? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I don't want to guess.  If you can call my office afterwards.  I want to say it’s $4.5 billion.  But if you could call my office to clarify that, that would be great.  We’ll give it to you because we know what it is.  It’s in the budget blueprint.  I just don't remember it off the top of my head. Q    Do you concede that by having no brick and mortar wall funding in this round that it delays construction of the wall? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  No, because a lot of the stuff that we can do this year had to be done anyway.  Keep in mind, building the border wall is not like building a wall at your house, okay?  A lot of this is in very rural areas, hard to get to.  So a lot of things we have to do, for example, is build roads to get out to those places, repair roads that are there.  Some of those roads go over gullies and washouts, and those bridges have fallen into disrepair.  Other places along the wall have fallen into disrepair already.  That's a lot of the gate problems that we have.  So we would fix all those things anyway as we're working our way to the new areas.  So I wouldn’t agree with the premise that this sets us back at all.  If nothing else, it actually helps us to fast-track where border security would be otherwise. Keep in mind, different President, you probably don't have any of this work being done.  This President, you will.  So I think we're actually ahead of where we expected to be. Q    Just following on the question about -- when we heard in March you discussed kind of things like foreign aid and the EPA.  And so can you talk about sort of why those are still in this?  And secondly, and more broadly, what you were calling for in March was something that was going to be deficit-neutral. DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  A couple different reasons.  Part of the compromise is sort of the big answer.  But the smaller answer is that a lot of our folks -- our Department of Labor Secretary just got there Thursday.  So to expect them to be able to implement dramatic changes in their bureaucracies in a short period of time I think is probably unreasonable.  So we’ll continue to push what we pushed on ’18.  But we were happy to go ahead and let ’17 run out in order to help get this deal done. Q    Deficit? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  The deficit is not going to change by this.  Keep in mind one thing that's also not being reported -- we did all of this without busting the caps.  The number is still going to be $1.070 trillion.  So those spending caps held as part of this agreement.  Q    A follow-up in terms of how this relates to the potential construction of a border wall?  On the border wall, can you just flesh that out a little bit?  What does that mean specifically?  How will that be a -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  It is sort of a first installment, the first step.   Q    Does it actually mean any of the -- there’s not going to be construction? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I think the bill allows us to maintenance.  So I'm not sure -- if we have to replace a gate that's broken or a bridge that's broken -- there will be construction activity.  There’s no bricks and mortar provided for in this bill. Q    Okay.  And does the timing of this vote, if it does, in fact, happen at the beginning of the week, lay the groundwork potentially for the healthcare vote?  Is it the expectation that that is, in fact, going to happen before the end of the -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I wouldn't want to wager a guess as to what the healthcare bill does.  I think that, if nothing else, it does allow the President to have at least one major success this week, which is great.  I mean, again, he’s going to sign his first substantive piece of legislation this week and it's going to make dramatic increases in funding to his priorities while keeping those caps intact.   Q    Would you have voted for this if you were still in the House?  And what would you say to members of the Freedom Caucus or other conservative Republicans who may be reluctant to support this because they see it as maybe not meeting enough priorities or having enough -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I'd be hard-pressed to figure how we could fund more of the priorities.  Listen, we didn’t get the sanctuary cities -- that's fine.  It never was -- our first four things to ask for, we asked for more money for defense, border security, sanctuary cities, and wanted spending reductions.  We didn’t get any spending reductions, we didn’t get sanctuary cities.  We got a good bit of border security, we got a big chunk of national defense, okay?  So you look at that and say two out of four, but keep in mind what we got at the last minute when the Democrats put Puerto Rico on the table was we got that school choice, which, again, lines up with the President’s priorities. So to my Republican friends, I would say, if you're serious about seeing the President advance his agenda you should vote for the bill. Q    So you talked about the border wall a little bit.  As far as the $18 billion in cuts that you had hoped to get this time, how do you anticipate the dynamics on Capitol Hill changing when you go back for FY’18 and you seek steep cuts to a number of agencies? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  That's a good question.   Q    -- some Republicans even oppose the border wall funding, for example, and other spending priorities as well. DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  The process here was a little unique.  The process for this bill actually started before we got here.  So this was a bipartisan bill from the get-go.  And we're hopeful that we can see as we go through the 2018 process is more of a Republican-driven process, especially in the House, which would be a little bit more typical.  In past years, we do the real appropriations process.  Yeah, there’s some bipartisanship, but also there’s more -- Q    Well, there’s things like NIH funding, a number of Senate Republicans have pushed for increases there -- DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Every time you cut spending in this town on anything you are going to have somebody pushing back.  We don't expect that to change. I'll take one more. Q    One more question about the wall.  I know you’ve had a number, but in this future request for the actual bricks and mortar wall, how much of that -- and you don't have to do a number now, obviously, but how much of that is going to be towards for purchasing land from people?  Obviously you're going to have to get land from private landowners, and some of those people aren't necessarily too happy about it.  How much is going to be put towards that?  I mean, how high can you guys negotiate before you have to condemn the property? DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I think it's almost impossible to say right now how much of that money in 2018 would go towards land acquisition.  Again, we're talking about the ’18 budget, the one we'll talk about in September -- excuse me -- vote on in September.  It's almost impossible.  I mean, think about the different -- the answer depends on things like this:  If we build the wall in downtown San Diego, my guess is the land acquisition costs would be a little bit higher than if we built in the middle of nowhere in Texas.   Q    I have a follow-up.  You know, you guys have been saying, we're ready to build the wall.  And clearly this is something that you must have considered before, right?   DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  We considered land acquisitions, sure.  In our 2018 request, we will be requesting money for land as part of bricks and mortar.   I'm going to wrap it up.  You guys know John who is here, so if you have any follow-up questions, please let John know.  He'll be happy to talk to you folks.  And I appreciate you giving a chance to talk.  Thanks, all. END  5:50 P.M. EDT

29 апреля, 01:26

Paying Money You Owe Isn't A 'Bailout,' Mr. President

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); Merriam-Webster defines the word “bailout” as “a rescue from financial distress.” The concept is pretty simple: Someone does something that results in a bad outcome, and someone else helps them out of the jam. The word itself refers to bailing water out of a leaky boat, so the metaphor fits. In the midst of the financial crisis that happened in the last decade, President George W. Bush and Congress bailed out the giant banks that caused the problem, concluding that this distasteful action was better than the alternative, which could have been a worldwide collapse of the financial system and a depression that would’ve made the Great Recession look like a boom time. President Barack Obama bailed out the auto industry. And President George H.W. Bush bailed out failing savings and loan institutions back in the 1980s. People don’t like these government bailouts. They really, really don’t like them. The idea that a business made decisions so bad that the only way to prevent a catastrophe is for taxpayers to fix it doesn’t sit right with Americans. That’s why “bailout” is a go-to insult politicians like to use to to describe things they don’t like. This pejorative has been especially popular with Republicans in recent years. Take President Donald Trump, seen here using the term to describe a part of the Affordable Care Act.  Democrats are trying to bail out insurance companies from disastrous #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017 The Democrats want to shut government if we don't bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2017 Democrats jeopardizing the safety of our troops to bail out their donors from insurance companies. It is time to put #AmericaFirst — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2017 Trump and members of his administration, along with a few GOP lawmakers, recently have started talking like this. It’s nonsense. So what’s Trump referring to here? It’s a once-obscure, difficult-to-explain element of the Affordable Care Act called cost-sharing reductions. Right now, it’s about the most fraught subject in health policy. Trump is threatening to cut off the money that makes cost-sharing reductions work, which would deal instant damage to the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance system and the people who rely on it. This threat might sound familiar to anyone who has followed Trump’s lengthy history of not paying his business partners. Remember Merriam-Webster: A bailout is an action taken after something bad has occurred to help the party that did the bad thing, or at least is suffering from that bad thing. What a bailout isn’t is when someone pays a bill for services rendered, or when the federal government carries out a program as written. (This isn’t the first time Republicans have called an existing part of the regular structure of Obamacare a “bailout.” It wasn’t true before, either.) As most people know, the Affordable Care Act offers tax credits to low- and middle-income households that reduce the monthly premiums for health insurance policies purchased via the law’s exchange marketplaces. But the lowest-income enrollees are eligible for a second kind of financial assistance ― those cost-sharing reductions, sometimes called CSRs. Here’s how they work: A person goes to the exchange and shops for coverage. If their income is low enough — up to 2.5 times the federal poverty level, which is $30,015 a year — their plans will come with lower deductibles and copayments. It’s a huge benefit for these enrollees who can, for example, take a deductible in the thousands of dollars and shrink it to just hundreds. More than 7 million people ― 58 percent of Obamacare enrollees ― received these subsidies this year. Health insurance companies are required by the law to reduce these out-of-pocket costs and to pay the difference to the hospitals, doctors and other medical providers who treat their customers. Then the federal government pays the insurers back. That last part is what Trump controls. No matter what he does, the insurers must lower these costs for their policyholders. But if Trump refuses to pay the companies back, some states would allow them to cancel their customers’ policies and leave the market altogether this year. And the companies that do continue to sell insurance through the exchanges would dramatically hike premiums next year to make up for the lost money. The White House went so far as saying they’d halt the payments next month, but backed down Wednesday. Paying this money is not a “bailout.” These health insurance companies didn’t screw up and come to Uncle Sam with their hands out. They entered into contracts with the government to sell certain kinds of health insurance under a certain set of rules, and one of those rules is they’d get the money they’re owed. Acting in bad faith with a business partner is part of Trump’s modus operandi, but it doesn’t really fly when it’s the federal government doing the reneging. That’s a big reason why a slew of health care and business groups are urging Trump and Congress to stop messing around and pay the money. Here’s a partial list of the organizations making this plea: the American Medical Association; the American Hospital Association; the Federation of American Hospitals; America’s Health Insurance Plans; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association; the American Benefits Council (a group of large businesses); and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The nation’s governors are worried, too. The National Governors Association — which represents all 50 governors from both political parties — asked Congress to fix this. It’s not often that every single governor agrees about something, and this is one of those times. The power to blow up the health insurance market is in Trump’s hands because of a lawsuit House Republicans filed against the Obama administration in 2014. Lawmakers argued that Obama was making these cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers in violation of the law, because Congress authorized them, but didn’t approve the specific spending. A federal court ruled in favor of House Republicans last year, but allowed the Obama administration to continue making the payments while the case worked its way through appeals. When Trump became president, his administration became the defendant in the case, and along with House Republicans, asked the appeals court to delay proceedings on the lawsuit while the two parties figure out what to do. In the meantime, the money keeps flowing to the insurance companies — but no one knows for how long, because Trump keeps saying he might cut them off. The result, as Molina Healthcare CEO Mario Molina explained to HuffPost this week, would be millions more uninsured, fewer choices for consumers because some insurers would refuse to sell plans under these circumstances, and much higher premiums for the insurance that remained. Put all that together, and it’s the American people who are going to need a bailout. Politics hurt too much? Sign up for HuffPost Hill, a humorous evening roundup featuring scoops from HuffPost’s reporting team and juicy miscellanea from around the web. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

27 апреля, 21:30

An Insurance CEO Explains The Dangerous Game Trump Is Playing With Obamacare

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); President Donald Trump has been threatening to stop making payments to health insurance companies that cover low-income people under Obamacare. Doing so would seriously jeopardize the entire insurance market in ways that could be felt immediately by poor households and the insurers that provide their health benefits. Although the Trump administration said on Wednesday it wouldn’t cut off these funds ― called cost-sharing reduction payments or CSRs ― immediately, the president still sees them as a cudgel to use against Democrats in Congress. Trump believes the public will blame the party that created Obamacare if he seriously damages the health insurance system, rather than him and his Republican Party. It’s an enormously complex policy and business issue with the potential for devastating consequences. The problem dates back three years to a lawsuit House Republicans filed against President Barack Obama’s administration, challenging the legality of the way the federal government paid insurers with low-income customers. Last year, Obama lost that lawsuit and appealed, and the funding remains in jeopardy because Congress hasn’t authorized the spending in the meantime. More than 7 million people ― 58 percent of Obamacare enrollees ― received these subsidies this year. To help readers better understand what this all means and why it matters, HuffPost interviewed Mario Molina, a physician and the CEO of Molina Healthcare, an insurance company that has more than 1 million customers in nine states with policies from the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The following is a transcript of that conversation. This stuff is complicated. Can you to explain to a layperson what these cost-sharing reduction payments are and why they’re important? Molina: The cost-sharing reductions are payments that are made to health plans to help cover copays and deductibles for low-income patients who get their health insurance through the exchange. And the way it works is that, let’s say you have a $50 copay. Depending on your income, it may be reduced to $15 with the health plan picking up the balance, which then gets paid to the doctor or the provider that you’re seeing. The plan is paid by the government, and then any money that is not used for copays and deductibles we must then return. So it’s really not a premium payment so much as it is a reimbursement for subsidies that reduce the out-of-pocket costs to the insured individual. Why are we talking about this? What’s the problem right now? Why is there a question about whether these payments are going to be made? The first issue is that many people with low-to-moderate incomes rely on these to help make their insurance more affordable. One of the things that Americans have complained about is the high cost of the copays and deductibles in this program. So this is designed to help them to be able to access doctors in a way that’s more affordable. The reason that we’re talking about it and why the funding is in question is that there’s an argument between the administration ― the Obama administration, it started out with ― and the Republicans in Congress as to how it would be paid for. The Obama administration felt that it was built into their budget. Congress thought that it was not. So there’s a fight. It’s a little bit like if I hired someone to paint my house, and then my wife and I argued about who’s going to write the check: Is it coming out of my account or her account? We still owe the painter the money. He did the work. But we’re arguing about whose bank account this is going to come out of. That’s the issue right now. So we’re looking for Congress to acknowledge that they’re going to pay for it and to fund the program. Right now, the administration continues to pay for it while this is in dispute. This could result in millions of Americans losing their insurance coverage this year. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare What happens immediately if the administration halts these payments or drops the appeal of the lawsuit that the previous administration lost on this question? Many people in the insurance industry believe that if the government doesn’t fund this and doesn’t pay the insurance plans, that they will have breached their contract with the insurance plans, and this could result in millions of Americans losing their insurance coverage this year. What are the bigger, longer-term implications for the entire individual health insurance market ― both for the exchanges and people who buy directly ― if these payments go away, starting with 2018’s market? The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that, without these cost-sharing reductions, premiums will rise by an average of about 20 percent. [Note: The estimate is 19 percent.] So health care will be more expensive in 2018, and many of the insurance companies will drop out because of the uncertainty about the program. Beneficiaries or people seeking insurance could find fewer choices, higher costs ― all because Congress did not fund the program. How is your company preparing for these eventualities in this climate of uncertainty for what you may do next year, and are there ways the end of these payments would affect Molina differently from other health insurance companies? What we’re doing to prepare for next year is to develop our premium rates. And we really have to look at this two ways. One is if the CSR is funded and one if it is not. The second question is: Do we even stay in the program at all? And if they’re not funded for 2017, I imagine that we’ll drop out of the program altogether. It affects all companies, some maybe to a greater extent than others, depending on how many of your members are getting these subsidies. For us, it’s over 70 percent. For some companies, it may be as high as 90 percent. So, the greater the percentage of your members who get these subsidies, the bigger the impact it will be on your health plan. And for us, we simply couldn’t sustain the losses. For us, it would be losses of hundreds of millions of dollars without these payments. Beneficiaries or people seeking insurance could find fewer choices, higher costs ― all because Congress did not fund the program. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare At this moment, what is your message to the administration and to the Congress about what they should do and when? My advice to the president and to the Congress is that they should fund the CSRs, which they’re currently paying anyway, for 2017 and 2018 to create stability in the individual insurance market. This will allow them time to come up with some rational changes to the Affordable Care Act to make it more sustainable for the long term. What they really need to do, though, is to buy themselves some time and some stability to have a bipartisan debate about what should be done about the insurance market in the United States. What happens next, and what will you be looking for in the very near term, in the coming weeks or couple of months? Molina: In the coming weeks, I think the most important priority is to fund these cost-sharing reductions to make sure that people who rely on them continue to have access to health insurance. Longer term, I think that the country needs to address the high cost of health care, which is what drives the high cost of insurance. We often hear that the ACA and the individual market is failing. It’s not. And if the funding continues, I think that it will do well in 2017 and 2018. But Congress needs to ensure that the funding is there. This transcript has been edited for clarity. Politics hurt too much? Sign up for HuffPost Hill, a humorous evening roundup featuring scoops from HuffPost’s reporting team and juicy miscellanea from around the web. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

27 апреля, 21:30

An Insurance CEO Explains The Dangerous Game Trump Is Playing With Obamacare

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); President Donald Trump has been threatening to stop making payments to health insurance companies that cover low-income people under Obamacare. Doing so would seriously jeopardize the entire insurance market in ways that could be felt immediately by poor households and the insurers that provide their health benefits. Although the Trump administration said on Wednesday it wouldn’t cut off these funds ― called cost-sharing reduction payments or CSRs ― immediately, the president still sees them as a cudgel to use against Democrats in Congress. Trump believes the public will blame the party that created Obamacare if he seriously damages the health insurance system, rather than him and his Republican Party. It’s an enormously complex policy and business issue with the potential for devastating consequences. The problem dates back three years to a lawsuit House Republicans filed against President Barack Obama’s administration, challenging the legality of the way the federal government paid insurers with low-income customers. Last year, Obama lost that lawsuit and appealed, and the funding remains in jeopardy because Congress hasn’t authorized the spending in the meantime. More than 7 million people ― 58 percent of Obamacare enrollees ― received these subsidies this year. To help readers better understand what this all means and why it matters, HuffPost interviewed Mario Molina, a physician and the CEO of Molina Healthcare, an insurance company that has more than 1 million customers in nine states with policies from the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The following is a transcript of that conversation. This stuff is complicated. Can you to explain to a layperson what these cost-sharing reduction payments are and why they’re important? Molina: The cost-sharing reductions are payments that are made to health plans to help cover copays and deductibles for low-income patients who get their health insurance through the exchange. And the way it works is that, let’s say you have a $50 copay. Depending on your income, it may be reduced to $15 with the health plan picking up the balance, which then gets paid to the doctor or the provider that you’re seeing. The plan is paid by the government, and then any money that is not used for copays and deductibles we must then return. So it’s really not a premium payment so much as it is a reimbursement for subsidies that reduce the out-of-pocket costs to the insured individual. Why are we talking about this? What’s the problem right now? Why is there a question about whether these payments are going to be made? The first issue is that many people with low-to-moderate incomes rely on these to help make their insurance more affordable. One of the things that Americans have complained about is the high cost of the copays and deductibles in this program. So this is designed to help them to be able to access doctors in a way that’s more affordable. The reason that we’re talking about it and why the funding is in question is that there’s an argument between the administration ― the Obama administration, it started out with ― and the Republicans in Congress as to how it would be paid for. The Obama administration felt that it was built into their budget. Congress thought that it was not. So there’s a fight. It’s a little bit like if I hired someone to paint my house, and then my wife and I argued about who’s going to write the check: Is it coming out of my account or her account? We still owe the painter the money. He did the work. But we’re arguing about whose bank account this is going to come out of. That’s the issue right now. So we’re looking for Congress to acknowledge that they’re going to pay for it and to fund the program. Right now, the administration continues to pay for it while this is in dispute. This could result in millions of Americans losing their insurance coverage this year. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare What happens immediately if the administration halts these payments or drops the appeal of the lawsuit that the previous administration lost on this question? Many people in the insurance industry believe that if the government doesn’t fund this and doesn’t pay the insurance plans, that they will have breached their contract with the insurance plans, and this could result in millions of Americans losing their insurance coverage this year. What are the bigger, longer-term implications for the entire individual health insurance market ― both for the exchanges and people who buy directly ― if these payments go away, starting with 2018’s market? The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that, without these cost-sharing reductions, premiums will rise by an average of about 20 percent. [Note: The estimate is 19 percent.] So health care will be more expensive in 2018, and many of the insurance companies will drop out because of the uncertainty about the program. Beneficiaries or people seeking insurance could find fewer choices, higher costs ― all because Congress did not fund the program. How is your company preparing for these eventualities in this climate of uncertainty for what you may do next year, and are there ways the end of these payments would affect Molina differently from other health insurance companies? What we’re doing to prepare for next year is to develop our premium rates. And we really have to look at this two ways. One is if the CSR is funded and one if it is not. The second question is: Do we even stay in the program at all? And if they’re not funded for 2017, I imagine that we’ll drop out of the program altogether. It affects all companies, some maybe to a greater extent than others, depending on how many of your members are getting these subsidies. For us, it’s over 70 percent. For some companies, it may be as high as 90 percent. So, the greater the percentage of your members who get these subsidies, the bigger the impact it will be on your health plan. And for us, we simply couldn’t sustain the losses. For us, it would be losses of hundreds of millions of dollars without these payments. Beneficiaries or people seeking insurance could find fewer choices, higher costs ― all because Congress did not fund the program. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare At this moment, what is your message to the administration and to the Congress about what they should do and when? My advice to the president and to the Congress is that they should fund the CSRs, which they’re currently paying anyway, for 2017 and 2018 to create stability in the individual insurance market. This will allow them time to come up with some rational changes to the Affordable Care Act to make it more sustainable for the long term. What they really need to do, though, is to buy themselves some time and some stability to have a bipartisan debate about what should be done about the insurance market in the United States. What happens next, and what will you be looking for in the very near term, in the coming weeks or couple of months? Molina: In the coming weeks, I think the most important priority is to fund these cost-sharing reductions to make sure that people who rely on them continue to have access to health insurance. Longer term, I think that the country needs to address the high cost of health care, which is what drives the high cost of insurance. We often hear that the ACA and the individual market is failing. It’s not. And if the funding continues, I think that it will do well in 2017 and 2018. But Congress needs to ensure that the funding is there. This transcript has been edited for clarity. Politics hurt too much? Sign up for HuffPost Hill, a humorous evening roundup featuring scoops from HuffPost’s reporting team and juicy miscellanea from around the web. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

26 апреля, 21:05

The GOP Has Its Finger On The Grenade That Would Blow Up Obamacare

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); President Donald Trump could be just weeks away from fulfilling his threat to explode the Obamacare market by halting crucial payments to health insurance companies, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has declared he’s not planning to do anything about it. During a telephone call Tuesday evening, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the Trump administration may withhold next month’s distribution of cost-sharing reduction payments, or CSRs, according to a House Democratic aide who asked not to be identified. Those payments reimburse insurers who serve the lowest-income people who get coverage from the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. Democrats have been pushing to make sure those payments continue ― either by having the Trump administration continue to dispense them, by relying on its own authority to do so, or by having Congress appropriate the money directly. An obvious vehicle for the latter would be the omnibus spending bill, now under consideration in Congress, that is supposed to fund government operations past April 30. “Pelosi reiterated the Democratic negotiators’ position that CSR payments must be included in the omnibus. Mulvaney indicated that, while the Trump administration had continued the CSR payments, they had not yet decided whether they would make the May payment,” the aide wrote in an email. A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget disputed some parts of this account, but did not deny Mulvaney’s comments about the possibility of stopping insurer payments after May. And in written statement, Mulvaney made clear the administration was not eager to see the subsidies as part of the omnibus spending bill ― calling them “an 11th hour bailout of Obamacare.” Over on Capitol Hill, Ryan confirmed that the omnibus spending bill won’t include the funding. “Obviously CSRs, we’re not doing that. That is not in an appropriation bill. That is something separate that the administration does,” Ryan said. The consequences of halting these payments to health insurance companies could be devastating for people who buy coverage on their own, rather than through employers. Insurers would face higher costs, and in many states they could respond by cancelling coverage for the rest of 2017. Even to the extent insurers decided to stay in the markets, this year or next, they would have to raise premiums for 2018 by an average of 19 percent, according a projection by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The possibility doesn’t appear to be hypothetical. On an earnings call Wednesday morning, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the nation’s second-biggest insurer and largest player on the health insurance exchanges, said it expected to raise rates by 20 percent ― or maybe pull out of markets altogether ― if CSR funding stopped. That’s why the insurance lobby, other health care interest groups and business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have made maintaining this funding a key priority. Trump repeatedly has threatened to allow the Obamacare insurance markets to wither under his watch either through inaction or by halting federal payments to health insurance companies. He’s made the threats both before and after last month’s collapse of the House Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and enact a measure that would cover 24 million fewer people. Trump’s odd gambit is that voters will blame Democrats ― the party that enacted the Affordable Care Act ― rather than Republicans ― the party that controls the entire federal government now ― for the fallout from his actions. Polls have repeatedly indicated the opposite ― that voters will hold Trump and the Republicans responsible for what happens to health insurance. But amid House Republican indecision about health care reform overall and the messy process of keeping the federal government from shutting down despite GOP control of Congress and the White House, Mulvaney’s and Ryan’s statements indicate that threat could become a reality soon. Cost-sharing reduction payments have been a critical part of the Affordable Care Act since its benefits took effect in 2014, not a post-facto provision added to the law to “bail out” insurance companies as Mulvaney implied. Under the Affordable Care Act, the poorest enrollees into private health plans purchased through the exchanges receive two forms of assistance. The first are the tax credits that reduce monthly insurance premiums, which are available to people who earn up to four times the federal poverty level, or $48,240 a year for a single person. Those whose incomes are below 250 percent of poverty, or $30,150 for a single person also are eligible for cost-sharing reductions that make out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and co-payments lower, as well. Health insurance companies are required by the law to reduce these out-of-pocket costs for qualified customers, and then the federal government is obliged to reimburse them for the lost money. Insurers would still have to cut cost-sharing for enrollees even if the government payments weren’t made, and absorb the losses that would result. The reason the money may stop flowing and that Trump has the authority to unilaterally end them stems from a 2014 lawsuit House Republicans filed against former President Barack Obama’s administration. The House GOP argued that Obama unlawfully made these payments without Congress authorizing the spending. While the Affordable Care Act sets out the obligations on insurers to provide lower cost-sharing to eligible customers and the process by which the government pays them back, Republicans maintain Congress still needs to appropriate the actual dollars. Last year, a federal judge ruled for the GOP, prompting the Obama administration to appeal. The judge agreed to stay the decision, allowing the federal government to continue making payments as the case works its way up through the courts. When Trump became president, his administration became the defendant in the case. The Trump administration and House Republicans obtained delays from the appeals court while they decided how to proceed. Like Obama, Trump has continued to make the payments in the meantime, but has always had the power to end them at any point. That point may come next month. Congress could have appropriated the funding earlier and resolved the dispute in that fashion. At several points in the last few weeks, prominent Republicans indicated they were inclined to go along ― perhaps as part of the spending bill that Democrats and Republicans are now negotiating. But Ryan made clear Wednesday that’s not currently on the table, as far as he’s concerned. Matt Fuller contributed reporting. Politics hurt too much? Sign up for HuffPost Hill, a humorous evening roundup featuring scoops from HuffPost’s reporting team and juicy miscellanea from around the web. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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26 апреля, 18:22

Ryan: Spending bill won't include Obamacare payments

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the spending bill to keep the federal government running won’t include funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies. “CSRs, we’re not doing that," Ryan said Wednesday, referring to the subsidy program that helps reduce out-of-pocket health costs for low-income Obamacare customers. "That is not in an appropriation bill, that’s something separate that the administration does.” Lawmakers are "very, very close on everything else" in the spending bill, Ryan said during a press conference. Government funding is set to run out after Friday. Insurers, state regulators and health care groups have urged Congress to continue funding Obamacare's cost-sharing subsidies, warning the law's insurance marketplaces could collapse without them. The House, which complained the Obama administration illegally funded the subsidies, successfully sued to block the program. But the subsidies continue to flow while the case is on appeal. If Congress refuses to fund the subsidies, the Trump administration must decide by next month whether to fight the House lawsuit or let the payments end. Trump has often suggested he will use these subsidies as leverage with Democrats on repealing and replacing Obamacare. Ryan also did not say when the House may reschedule a vote on an updated Obamacare repeal bill, which would allow states to opt out of major Obamacare rules under certain conditions.

26 апреля, 17:43

White House to continue Obamacare payments, removing shutdown threat

Lawmakers are expected to pass a one-week funding extension in order to finalize a deal.

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25 апреля, 00:33

ADPVoice: 3 Boxes To Check When You Set Up Your Organization's CSR Program

Corporate social responsibility used to be considered a nice-to-have feature for organizations looking to boost their brand recognition and appease certain stakeholders.

17 апреля, 23:06

Republicans Prepare To Lose On A Government Funding Bill

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); WASHINGTON ― Republicans may hold the House, the Senate and the White House, but when it comes to the upcoming omnibus spending bill, it’s Democrats who look in control. There are still a number of tricky issues to settle, and there are plenty of ways a deal could blow up, but when Congress returns next week just a few days before an April 28 government funding deadline, the emerging bill seems likely to please Democrats and anger conservatives. It’s the first real instance where Republicans and President Donald Trump need Democratic votes to enact their agenda ― short of once again blowing up Senate rules ― and that leverage has Democrats blocking many Republican priorities. In the GOP dream world, Republicans would defund Planned Parenthood, restrict money for so-called sanctuary cities, fund Trump’s border wall, potentially blow up Obamacare, and provide significantly more for defense while starving other domestic programs that Democrats prefer. But it seems Republicans will get hardly any of that, save for a defense boost that lawmakers on both sides essentially consider pro forma at this point. Conservatives inside and outside Congress may soon rightfully ask: How is this deal any different than a bill Republicans would get if Hillary Clinton were president and Democrats controlled Congress? The difficulty for Republicans is that they need eight votes in the Senate to pass an omnibus spending bill, which will fund the government until October. Needing eight Democratic votes in the Senate is basically akin to needing all Democrats, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will have to sign off on the bill. And if Schumer has to give the deal his blessing, it’s tough for Republicans to get much. One flashpoint is the border wall. Trump and Republicans want at least some money toward the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but according to aides with knowledge of the negotiations, Democrats aren’t willing to give much ― if anything. Instead, Democrats are offering money for border security, most of which would have to be offset in some way. Trump may get some funding for a physical wall, but it would hardly be enough to even start construction. It may be just enough that both sides would be able to claim some form of victory ― Democrats on functionally blocking the wall, Republicans on at least getting more for border security, and, maybe Pyrrhically, for a physical barrier. The other issue where Republicans and Democrats could both say they won is the most obvious negotiating point: funding levels. Almost every lawmaker concedes they are going to blow through the Budget Control Act spending caps Congress set in 2011. The question is by how much and for what priorities. Republicans would like to add substantial money to defense. But the traditional agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Washington has been that, for every dollar of defense spending above the caps, non-defense priorities get a dollar too. How that spending breakdown gets divvied up is still under negotiation, but with the bill already tilting toward Democrats, GOP leadership knows they are going to lose conservatives anyway. That means they have to make up the difference with Democrats. The common paradox on these spending bills is that the more Democrats win on policy, the more they win on spending. If conservatives are going to vote no anyway over objections on issues like Planned Parenthood or the border wall, it’s Democrats who have to carry the bill to passage in the House and Senate. At this point, Republicans ― in the House, at least ― look to be playing for a “majority of the majority,” which has mostly eluded Republicans over the last several years on these large spending deals. Perhaps the best sign of just where a deal stands is that Democrats told The Huffington Post that negotiations were going well, whereas conservatives sounded hopeless about supporting the measure. Still, passing an omnibus bill with nearly unanimous Democratic support and just a little help from Republicans could be so unpalatable for Trump that he vetoes the legislation. Aides have pointed out that the White House has mostly stayed out of the negotiations to this point, with the exception of Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney seeming to indicate recently that the administration wanted to cut funding for sanctuary cities. But that demand looks to be more bluster than reality. Aides have also pointed out that, mechanically, it may be difficult to actually cut funds for cities that tend not to deport undocumented immigrants. (No one seems to have a good legislative definition of a sanctuary city.) The White House understands that failure to fund the government looks far worse for Republicans ― who control every lever of the federal government ― than it does for Democrats. And the last thing the GOP needs amid its inability to pass a health care bill is another reminder that they have difficulty governing. Voters may get a reminder anyway, as the few legislative days before a government shutdown on April 29 could lead Congress to pass a short-term continuing resolution for, say, one week. Concerns about governing have already led Republicans to back off a fight that Trump raised when he suggested Republicans could try to blow up the Obamacare insurance markets and force Democrats to negotiate by withholding the subsidies that help low-income consumers purchase Obamacare plans. Trying to dismantle Obamacare through a government funding bill, however ― à la Republicans in 2013 ― puts the GOP in a public relations crisis where they likely take the blame for a shutdown, as well as the collapse of the 2010 health care law. Instead, GOP aides told HuffPost, Republicans would probably fund those so-called cost-sharing reductions and try to tackle health care through their own bill. The money for those CSRs would likely be tied to additional defense money. The promise of a health care bill in the offing is also helping to tamp down a fight over defunding Planned Parenthood. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently he saw a reconciliation health care bill, which is subject to simple majorities in the House and Senate, as the proper place to have that fight over Planned Parenthood. Republicans still haven’t given up hope that they can accomplish their health care priorities through that sort of bill. Just as they haven’t given up hope on funding a border wall through a supplemental spending bill, just as they haven’t given up on even more defense spending beyond an omnibus in a defense supplemental. But if they can’t get hardly anything in a must-pass bill now, why would Republicans think they can get more in other bills? “Senator Schumer will shut down the government before he gives concessions on Planned Parenthood or the border wall, and for Republicans to believe that some future must-pass bill will make Democrats cave is just wishful thinking,” one Republican member told HuffPost. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

15 апреля, 00:07

Procrastinating on April 14, 2017

**Over at [Equitable Growth](http://EquitableGrowth.org): Must- and Should-Reads:** * _Notes: Working, Earning, and Learning In the Age of Intelligent Machines | Equitable Growth_ * **Nick Bunker**: _A new way to look at how U.S. firms affect their workers’ pay now and in the future | Equitable Growth_ * **Josh Marshall**: _Trump Threatens to Torch More Republicans_: "the President is threatening... CSR payments to sabotage the Obamacare exchanges and... force Democrats to the bargaining table... * **Barry Eichengreen and Brad DeLong** (2013): _New Preface to Charles Kindleberger, "The World in Depression 1929-1939"_: "Anyone fortunate enough to live in New England in 1970-1985 or so and possessed of even a limited interest in international financial and monetary history... * **Dani Rodrik**: _A Foreword to Kari Polanyi Levitt_: "I first encountered Karl Polanyi as an undergraduate, in a course on comparative politics... ---- **Interesting Reads:** * **Justin Fox**: _The De-Electrification of the U.S. Economy_: "The 'old thermoelectric power complex' was decidedly not on the cusp of a big boom in 1999..." * **Afaf Lutfi Sayyid-Marsot** (1984): _Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali_ * **Carlos F.Diaz Alejandro** (1984): _Essays on the Economic History of the Argentine Republic_ * **Peter Evans** (1995): _Embedded Autonomy_ *...

18 апреля 2015, 09:10

5 самых быстрых поездов в мире

Современные поезда быстрее машин. Но насколько быстрее? На самом деле, даже суперкарам за составами, получившими статус bullet-train, не угнаться. Соревнуются они между собой. И ради победы готовы даже взлететь.