Feb 8, 2017

Freedom Caucus chairman: I'd be OK with payments to Obamacare insurers

Susan Walsh/AP

The leader of one of the most conservative House Republican groups says he could support paying health insurers back for their Obamacare subsidies, one of the main things the industry wants to stay in the markets after the law is repealed. ""I would be more flexible and could swallow some short term heartburn for some longer term fiscal responsibility" and lower health care costs, Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. He added, however, that there has to be a longer-term plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Why it matters: Meadows' comments could make it a lot easier for Congress to pay health insurers for their cost-sharing reduction subsidies — which they pay to low-income Obamacare customers — so the markets don't collapse if Obamacare is repealed. House Republican leaders would have a harder time getting Congress to approve the payments if they can't win over the fiscal hardliners in the Freedom Caucus. Insurers say they'd suffer big losses if they don't get the payments, which are currently being held up by a lawsuit.

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Ivanka Trump plans focus on coronavirus recovery for small businesses

Ivanka Trump speaks at yesterday's White House videoconference with bank and credit card executives. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Ivanka Trump personally lobbied top bank executives to line up the $1.5 billion in commitments to small business that were announced yesterday at a videoconference among the bank executives and President Trump — stoking competitive juices among the execs to drive up their commitments.

The state of play: Ivanka, who has had workforce development in her portfolio going back to 2017, plans an increasing emphasis on small businesses in the weeks ahead as they navigate the rescue bill’s Payroll Protection Program, sources tell me.

Public transit's death spiral

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation.

Why it matters: Transit agencies could see an annual shortfall of as much as $38 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TransitCenter. At the same time, they're more important than ever, with more than 36% of essential workers relying on public transportation to get to work.

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World coronavirus updates: London mayor says U.K. nowhere near lockdown lifting

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

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered hope in the fight against the novel coronavirus, saying she believes New Zealand has "turned a corner" after two weeks of strict lockdown measures. But London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the U.K. is "nowhere near" lifting restrictions.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed over 82,000 people and infected 1.4 million others globally as of early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Global recoveries have surpassed 301,000. Spain has reported the most cases outside the U.S. (more than 141,000) and Italy the most deaths (over 17,000). Half the planet's population is on lockdown.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health