Congress won't act before key health care deadline - Axios
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Congress won't act before key health care deadline

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Insurers must decide by Wednesday whether they're going to participate in 39 states' insurance exchanges next year. And despite the turmoil already roiling those markets — double-digit premium increases are piling up nationwide, and dozens of counties won't have any plans available — Congress has run out of time to provide any help.

There are 47 counties across three states where no insurers have signed up to participate next year. More could still drop out , but none will be able to enter new markets once next week's deadline passes. Some Republicans had hoped to stabilize the Affordable Care Act's exchanges while they worked on a bigger health care bill. But party leaders aren't as concerned, and said the problem could be fixed later.

"Like anything else, there's going to be deadlines and there's going to be real deadlines," said Sen. John Thune, a member of GOP leadership. "We assume, of course, insurance companies are going to work with us and there's going to be some flexibility on their part. But we also know that we gotta move as quickly as we can."

The problem: Insurers say they still have no certainty about what the exchanges will look like next year. They're particularly concerned about whether the Trump administration will continue to pay out the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies, and have said they'll need even bigger premium increases if that money stops flowing.

  • Some Republican senators have publicly called for some kind of short-term marketplace stabilization package for the 2018 plan year, but nothing has materialized. Sen. Ron Johnson, who has been one of the members calling for such a package, said "I'm not in charge of the process" when asked about the lack of action before next week's deadline.
  • A short-term package is still possible, Sen. Rob Portman told me, but there's also interest in folding any 2018 stabilization measures into the ACA replacement bill "because that maximizes the chance of getting it all done."
  • The White House is paying out the cost-sharing subsidies for now, but hasn't made any long-term commitments. And the administration's ability to make those payments without an appropriation is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.

Possible solutions: Many proposals to stabilize states' exchanges — such as a temporary funding boost — wouldn't do much to help the places without any insurers participating in the marketplace. So unless the rules are changed, bare counties will remain bare.

  • Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has introduced a bill that would let people who live in bare counties use their ACA subsidy to buy coverage on the exchange that serves federal employees. GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have also proposed letting those consumers take their subsidies off the exchanges. Neither proposal has gotten much traction.
  • Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Tom Carper introduced a bill this week to add more reinsurance funding to exchanges. Kaine told me that while he knows the chances of immediate enactment aren't good, "even if we can't do the fix in the next week or so, we can send a message to patients, to insurers, to providers, that we're going to take this seriously and that a fix is coming."
  • Many Republicans have expressed support for including temporary stabilization funding for 2018 and 2019 as part of their ACA replacement bill.
  • Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she wants a "signal...sent about the cost sharing reductions."
The consequences of inaction: People without access to any form of health insurance will inevitably be angry, and polling shows they're likely to blame the party in charge. "Republicans need to make sure that patients have access to insurance," one former GOP Senate aide told me. And if they don't, that will have political consequences: "The Democrats learned this over the past several elections."
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Ex-FCC chair: Move against AT&T is "chilling"

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Former FCC chairman Julius Genakowski, now a partner with The Carlyle Group, is troubled by the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to block AT&T from buying Time Warner. He tells Axios that yesterday's lawsuit creates "unprecedented uncertainty for media companies" and that AT&T may be coerced into a divestiture that would be "unfair and potentially chilling."

Why it matters: Genakowski led the FCC when Comcast acquired NBC Universal, a merger that both the Department of Justice and AT&T are using to justify their current positions.

Genakowski's full statement:

"This lawsuit creates unprecedented uncertainty for media companies trying to scale in this new media world where cord-cutting is pressuring revenue and they're competing now with multiple, much larger tech companies. And it could be a bad sign for the tech companies as well, though it's hard to point to a time where we've had as many strong and innovative companies competing against each other.

Hard to know what's underneath this lawsuit. Could be the belief that DoJ should impose only structural remedies, though hard to unsee the President's comments on the deal; and confusing that the FCC is moving in the opposite direction, removing structural remedies on media ownership.

The story isn't over - I don't see the government winning this lawsuit based on precedent and facts, including Comcast/NBCu, approved with conditions while I chaired the FCC. But even the unlikely can happen in court. A tough question is whether AT&T would consider a divestiture to put the matter behind them. Possible, though unfair and potentially chilling."

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CBS and PBS fire Charlie Rose

Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Both CBS and PBS fired Charlie Rose today after several women accused him of sexual harassment, per AP. He was quickly suspended by the networks, as well as Bloomberg, following the Washington Post's report. CBS News President David Rhodes said in a statement, "Despite Charlie's important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace."

Go deeper: Read about the allegations against Rose and the full list of men in media who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

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Trump pardons turkey: "Drumstick is going to be very happy"

President Trump pardons Drumstick at the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

In keeping with tradition, Donald Trump granted a presidential pardon to a turkey Tuesday, smiling broadly and cracking jokes as he did so. "We have not seen any guests quite like the visitor we have today," said Trump. "Drumstick, I think, is going to be very happy."

Trump joked, "As many as of you know, I have been very active in overturning many actions of my predecessor, but I have been informed by the White House Counsel's Office that Tater and Tot's pardons (made by Obama) cannot under any circumstances be revoked. Tater and Tot, you can rest easy." The Trump family is headed to Mar-a-Lago later this afternoon, where they'll spend Thanksgiving.

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Conyers admits paying settlement, denies allegations

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. Photo: Charles Dhaparak / AP

Tuesday afternoon, Michigan Rep. John Conyers released a statement again denying the allegations of sexual harassment, but admitting that he paid a settlement made. He clarified, "the resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment," and added that he will fully cooperate with an investigation.

Earlier, the AP reported that Conyers denied the sexual harassment settlements, which BuzzFeed News reported on last night, and that he knew nothing of the claims.

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Pentagon identifies remains recovered in Niger as Sgt. Johnson

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis answers a reporter's question about the ambush of U.S. troops in Niger. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

The Pentagon confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that remains of Sgt. La David T. Johnson were found at the site of the attack in Niger that killed four U.S. service members. The remains were found on November 12, more than a month after the Pentagon initially said Johnson's body was recovered.

Johnson's widow had questioned why she was not allowed to view his body, saying "They won't show me a finger, a hand... I don't know what's in that box. It could be empty for all I know, but I need to see my husband," she said. There are still several unanswered questions surrounding the October ambush, and the Pentagon did not elaborate on how this discovery would affect the ongoing investigation.

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IADB President Luis Moreno on misperceptions of Latin America

Luis Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, discusses the economic and cultural opportunities in Latin America that are lost due to misperceptions.

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President Robert Mugabe officially resigns

Zimbabwe's president has resigned. Photo: AP

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has officially resigned, per AP, after he refused to do so earlier this week.

The impeachment allegations against Mugabe include that he is "of advanced age" and too incapacitated to serve, and that he "allowed his wife to usurp constitutional power," per AP.

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Tobacco companies will start running anti-tobacco ads

After a protracted legal battle, tobacco companies will begin running court-ordered ads next week about the health risks of smoking. The campaign of "corrective statements," mandated by a federal judge in 2006, includes a year of TV spots and roughly four months of full-page ads in 50 newspapers.

Why now? These ads have been the subject of litigation for nearly 20 years. They're the product of a lawsuit the Justice Department filed in 1999, which was decided in 2006, then appealed, before the ads themselves were finalized earlier this year. And though the spots will run widely, both TV and newspaper advertising have lost a lot of their reach since this all began.

The details: The "corrective statements" tobacco companies must make cover five topics:

  • The U.S. death toll of cigarettes and the diseases they cause
  • The addictiveness of nicotine
  • The fact that "light" and "low tar" cigarettes are not safer
  • That cigarettes are designed to be addictive
  • The adverse health effects of secondhand smoke

Beginning next week, print ads will run in the Sunday editions of 50 daily newspapers. The television spots must run for 52 weeks, in prime time, on the major networks.


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FanDuel CEO leaves for e-sports startup

Nigel Eccles. Photo: Brendan Moran / Getty

FanDuel co-founder Nigel Eccles has stepped down as the fantasy sports company's chairman and CEO, in order to launch an e-sports startup.

Backstory: Eccles actually began planning the e-sports venture when FanDuel was in the midst of merging with DraftKings, after which he would have become chairman of the combined entity (with DraftKings boss Jason Robins serving as CEO). But then federal regulators successfully blocked the merger, leaving Eccles in a tricky position.

So tricky, in fact, that he misled his own internal PR rep about the e-sports effort when Axios inquired last month. He also didn't fully inform his full board, which struck the departure agreement late last week.

  • Next: FanDuel's new CEO is Matt King, a former FanDuel CFO who previously was with FanDuel backer KKR. The new chairman is Carl Vogel (ex-Dish Networks exec) while David Nathanson (ex-21st Century Fox) also joins the board as an independent director.
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Students worked illegal overtime to assemble iPhoneX in China

Staff members work on the production line at the Foxconn complex in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, southern China, in 2012. Photo: Kin Cheung / AP

Students have been working illegal overtime hours to assemble the iPhoneX at Apple's main supplier in Asia, the Financial Times reports. Six high school students told the FT they often work 11-hour days in a Foxconn factory, where they were told they must get "work experience" in order to graduate.

Why it matters: Apple dealt with iPhoneX production issues that delayed its launch. Providing flexible student labor is one of the incentives that China's Henan province offers to keep Foxconn there, the FT said. Foxconn said it offers the internship program in cooperation with local governments and schools.

What the companies said: Apple and Foxconn acknowledged they were aware of cases of interns working overtime and were addressing the issue. The companies said the students were compensated and working voluntarily at the factory, but Apple said the students "should not have been allowed to work overtime."