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Not invited to administration Obamacare meeting: Treasury

(Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Members of the Trump administration got together on Sunday to talk about President Trump's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — but a photo tweeted by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus doesn't show any Treasury Department officials at the table, despite the likelihood that the plan will involve big tax changes.

At the table were many members of the president's health care and policy teams, including Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, yet-to-be confirmed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Seema Verma, and White House aide Stephen Miller.

But no one from the Treasury Department was there, and a source who heard about the snub from a White House economic adviser said the department feels shut out of the process. A White House spokesperson responded that while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "wasn't in attendance at this particular meeting, he is absolutely involved in the discussion of how best to repeal and replace Obamacare."

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Inside the resistance

Paul Morigi / AP

Republican members are in for one hell of a recess week. Progressive groups are circulating information about town hall meetings on a MoveOn.org-powered website, "Resistance Recess."

More than a dozen major groups in the institutional left are involved, with groups like Planned Parenthood and unions like SEIU organizing protests. The former Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA is running localized digital ads — its first paid ads since the election — to spotlight Republican town halls. Democratic leaders like Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer will lead events.

What's in store:

  • "Resistance Events" will target everyone from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (Wednesday evening) to Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski (Tuesday morning) to Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Saturday morning). Protesters can find them by locale or zip code on resistancerecess.com.
  • Nobody is safe. Not even the members ducking town halls. Our Revolution, the group that spun off from Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, will launch a map tomorrow showing every congressional district in the country that they intend to swarm next Saturday.
  • Shannon Jackson, Our Revolution's executive director, says they've already got close to 200 events planned around the country and will be rallying outside nearly every Republican congressional office.

Resisting the resistance: House Republicans have been intensely prepping for these confrontations. At least 175 members attended Obamacare "listening sessions" — which were really detailed policy briefing sessions — convened by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

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What Kasich really wants on Medicaid

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Ohio Gov. John Kasich got some attention this morning when he said it would be a "very, very bad idea" for congressional Republicans to phase out Medicaid expansion. "We cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable," Kasich said on CNN's State of the Union. "We can give them the coverage, reform the program, save some money, and make sure that we live in a country where people are going to say, at least somebody is looking out for me."

What it really means: Yes, Kasich wants to make sure the 700,000 Ohio residents who gained coverage don't lose it. But that doesn't mean he wants to leave the Medicaid expansion the way it is. Here are two important things Kasich has asked for in the past — reforms where he could pretty easily reach common ground with the Trump administration and Congress:

  • Charge a fee for Medicaid coverage. Kasich has proposed that in the past, and although the Obama administration turned him down, he could have more luck this time with a modified version of the plan. That's because Seema Verma, Trump's nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was the consultant who helped Kasich write his original plan, Cleveland.com reports.
  • As a presidential candidate last year, Kasich proposed rewriting Medicaid to limit the amount of funding for each person in the program — the same idea congressional Republicans are looking at now. Kasich's point is that he doesn't want people to lose coverage during the transition to the new system.
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See? Trump is working on Obamacare repeal

Andrew Harnik / AP

President Trump is holding an Obamacare strategy meeting tomorrow with Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, per a White House pool report.

Between the lines: The presence of Mulvaney, just confirmed as OMB director, suggests this is going to be a meeting about how to repeal Obamacare — and probably include some pieces of a replacement -- through the budget "reconciliation" bill.

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Chelsea Clinton, global health wonk

Mark Lennihan/AP

Hillary Clinton resurfaced on Twitter this morning to plug Chelsea Clinton's new book: an academic look at global health. The book, Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why?, shows that the fascination with health care runs through the Clinton family — except that Chelsea is more interested in the public health side, especially the international effort to wipe out diseases.

What it says: Judging from the online excerpt, it reads like exactly what it is: an academic book published by Oxford University Press. It's cowritten by a professor at the University of Edinburgh's medical school, and it's not easy to get through. That said, it's a good look at how Chelsea Clinton has been carving out her own health care identity in her career. She takes more of an international perspective, and she's interested in how other countries can strengthen their public health systems.

How you know she's a Clinton: It's right there in the title of the chapter that's posted online: "Financing universal healthcare coverage."

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The "Roe" in Roe v Wade has died

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The Washington Post reports that Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" in Roe v Wade who later became a pro-life activist, died today in Texas. She was 69. Her death was confirmed to WaPo by a reporter working on a book on the decision.

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One big hangup with Obamacare replacement: tax credits

Zach Gibson/AP

Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur and Billy House have a smart piece about one reason conservative House Republicans think the emerging Obamacare replacement plan is "Obamacare Lite": They don't like the tax credits. The House GOP plan would create "refundable" tax credits to help people buy health insurance, meaning low-income people could get the money even if they didn't owe taxes. That's what the conservatives don't like — they say it could just become another entitlement. "I don't want people getting money back," Rep. Ted Yoho told Bloomberg.

Why it matters: This is all part of Republicans' reckoning with the reality of health care reform: There are different ways to replace Obamacare and still cover uninsured people, but not an infinite number of ways. If the conservative members reject all of them, the GOP could end up with no replacement at all — and then they can't guarantee a smooth transition away from Obamacare.

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Justice Department lawsuit puts UnitedHealth in hot water

Scott / Flickr Creative Commons

A newly unsealed lawsuit alleges UnitedHealth Group "defrauded the United States of hundreds of millions — and likely billions — of dollars" by knowingly submitting false and inflated charges to Medicare, multiple media outlets have reported.

The stocks of UnitedHealth and other insurers that sell Medicare Advantage plans were hammered Friday on the news, and some financial analysts believe the lawsuit will likely "result in additional scrutiny on Medicare Advantage," the private alternative to traditional Medicare coverage. A UnitedHealth spokesman said the company will fight the lawsuit "vigorously," saying it's based on a misinterpretation of Medicare rules.

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Mitch McConnell says GOP will pass health and tax reform without Democrats

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Senate majority leader said today that Republicans will pass their health and tax agendas without Democratic votes, the Associated Press reports. This is a departure from GOP talk of eventually bringing Democrats to the table to help with reforms to the health care system after Republicans repeal Obamacare.

Reality check: Republicans can't do everything they want to on health care without Democratic votes, under Senate rules. They can do a lot through a process called budget reconciliation, which allows them to pass budget-related policy with just 51 votes. But they can't touch central elements of Obamacare, such as:

  • The law's ban on discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, either through denying them coverage or charging them higher premiums.
  • The law's requirement that insurers offer a defined set of benefits, known as the essential health benefits.
  • The regulation on how much of an insurer's income can be profit.
Why this matters: All pieces of health care impact one another. If Republicans don't write their health plans while acknowledging the reality of what they can and can't do, they could cause massive chaos in insurance markets.
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Backlash builds over Verma comments on maternity health benefits

AP file photo

Seema Verma, President Trump's nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has triggered a big lobbying backlash with her suggestion in her Senate testimony yesterday that maternity health coverage should be optional. The March of Dimes is circulating an online petition denouncing the comments, saying: "ALL families should be able to have a healthy baby without planning a year or more in advance."

Why it's an issue: Maternity coverage is one of the required categories of health benefits under Obamacare, and Republicans are looking for ways to relax those rules to bring down the cost of health insurance. Verma told the Senate Finance Committee that while some women want maternity coverage, "some women might not choose that."

Why it matters: It's a sign of how much lobbying will take place to keep Obamacare's required benefits in place, pushing back against customers who have complained that they don't want all of the coverage the law requires.