Bob Herman Aug 22
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Ascension acquires Illinois' largest Catholic health system

Gerald Herbert / AP

Ascension, the largest Catholic not-for-profit health system in the country, will become even larger after agreeing to acquire Presence Health, the largest Catholic hospital system in Illinois.

The numbers: Ascension — with 141 hospitals and more than $22 billion in annual revenue — has had decent profit margins while Presence Health has been losing a lot of money on its 12 hospitals and $2.7 billion in annual revenue. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but based on Presence Health's financial statements and recent going rates for hospital transactions, the deal could be worth at least $1 billion — and possibly a lot more.

Why it matters: Hospital and health system consolidation is a continuing trend and almost always results in higher prices for patients.

Mike Allen 10 hours ago
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A huge clue about Mueller's endgame

Robert Mueller testifies before Congress in 2013. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump's lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Why it matters: That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey's firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

Amy Harder 11 hours ago
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Column / Harder Line

The swamp’s tug-o-war over America’s ethanol mandate

American eagle with corn in its claws
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

A biofuels standard Congress passed more than a decade ago in the name of rural development, energy security and climate change has devolved into an arcane fight over market share that has nothing to do with those initial three goals.

Why it matters: The law — called the renewable fuel standard that requires refineries to blend biofuels into gasoline — is a textbook example of how regulations create winners, losers and unintended consequences.