May 16, 2017

HHS writes "checklist" to help states apply for ACA waivers

AP file photo

The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to make it easier for states to apply for special waivers so it can opt out of certain Affordable Care Act rules, as long as it can accomplish the same goals in different ways. It issued a new "checklist" today for State Innovation Waivers (sometimes called Section 1332 waivers, after the section of the ACA that allows them).

What it does: In a statement, HHS Secretary Tom Price called the checklist "a guide for states that seek greater flexibility to lower costs, improve choices, and design a healthcare system that actually responds to the unique needs of their communities."

Why it matters: Price has been open about his intentions to grant as many of the waivers as possible to give states more flexibility. He's especially trying to encourage them to set up high-risk polls and reinsurance programs to help cover people with pre-existing conditions — which is also a goal of the House-passed health care bill.

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Japan to close schools through late March to control coronavirus outbreak

A couple takes photos in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that the government will ask elementary, middle and high schools around the country to close until late March as an attempt to contain its novel coronavirus outbreak, AP reports.

Why it matters: The government's decision — impacting 12.8 million students across 34,847 schools — comes as concerns mount about the spread of the virus in Japan, which has 189 confirmed cases and hundreds more abroad the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeper: The latest coronavirus updates

What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A poor response to the coronavirus could be politically devastating for President Trump, and so far his administration has given the strong impression that it’s still scrambling as the risk of a pandemic mounts.

Why it matters: There’s only so much any president can do to stop a virus from spreading, and for now the coronavirus is still very much under control within the U.S. But if the disease get worse in the months ahead, and if the administration seems to be caught off guard, that spells trouble for public confidence in Trump.

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

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.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

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