Mar 10, 2017

Freedom Caucus chair: Obamacare repeal bill would raise premiums

(Susan Walsh / AP)

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative hardliner House Freedom Caucus, is voicing what many health care experts are saying: The current Obamacare repeal and replacement bill being considered by the House would actually raise premiums.

That has huge political ramifications. Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of House leadership are gambling conservatives will eventually vote yes on the bill when it comes to the House floor, because it is Obamacare Repeal. But if Meadows — backed up by wonks of all ideologies — can say the House bill is actually worse for people than Obamacare, then he is perfectly free to vote no on it.

The key quote:

"Obviously we're going to try to make this bill better where it actually lowers premiums," Meadows told reporters. "That's why there's not enough votes, because at this point, the number one priority – the top priority, you can throw everything away – is driving premiums down. If we don't do that, we will have failed, and we must do that in order to be successful."

Why premiums would go up, explained by Meadows:

"If you take healthy people off and you keep all the mandates that are there...premiums will go up. I think in the short run, because of some of the other things that are in the bill, in the short run premiums could come down for a year. But over a ten-year period, I think premiums would go up, just the way this is structured."

What he wants: All of Obamacare's insurance regulations and market reforms to be repealed through the bill. This includes the pre-existing conditions protections — he says pre-existing conditions can be protected through different mechanisms — and the essential health benefits, which drive insurance costs up.

But how? The problem is that the Senate's rules about budget reconciliation, which is the method being used to repeal Obamacare without any Democrats, don't allow non-budgetary measures to be included in the legislation. But Meadows says he thinks there's a winning case to be made that these pieces of Obamacare do, in fact, impact the budget and thus can be included.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll hits 3,900

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus has just hit 3,900, per Johns Hopkins data.

Details: Tuesday night's grim milestone came hours after President Trump said it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the novel coronavirus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place. "They are going to be facing a war zone," he said of medical workers.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 14 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates: UN warns of recession with "no parallel" to recent past

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 and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 858,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday night, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 19 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 857,957 — Total deaths: 42,139 — Total recoveries: 178,091.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 188,547 — Total deaths: 3,899 — Total recoveries: 7,068.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1. A federal judge on Tuesday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 10 detained immigrants who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in confinement.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.