Apr 4, 2019

Health care costs continue to rise amid ACA distraction

This was 7 years ago. Photo: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

The Affordable Care Act was and is a big deal.

Yes, but: It probably should not be the sun around which all health policy must orbit. And the fact that Washington has thrust it into that role, for almost a decade, has diverted attention and political energy from the very important issue of what health care costs.

  • "We're doing nothing. Nothing. We're heading toward the waterfall," former Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf told Politico's Joanne Kenen, who has a good piece about the opportunity cost of the ACA wars.

Polls show that the public is worried about cost more than anything else in the health care system, but it's not getting commensurate political attention.

  • Republicans are torn among competing strategies of ignoring health care, stoking the embers of the ACA-repeal fire, and promoting an agenda of looser regulations with higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Democrats are torn between expanding the ACA (which would shift more costs to taxpayers, without necessarily lowering them) and calls for single-payer (which includes some very dramatic cost controls, but is the most politically difficult option you could imagine).

The bottom line: Health care costs are just going to keep on climbing.

Go deeper: Former HHS official calls on employers to crack down on health care costs

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Bernie Sanders wins Nevada caucus

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waves to supporters at a campaign rally on Friday in Las Vegas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is projected to handily win the Nevada Democratic primary caucus, becoming the clear frontrunner among 2020 Democratic presidential primary election candidates.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state with a diverse population to hold a nominating contest, highlighting candidates' abilities to connect with voters of color — particularly Latino voters.

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South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting these are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the United States.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel and Lebanon, while Iran reported its sixth death from the virus. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 Friday to 433 on Saturday and Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 by Saturday.

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.