Jan 17, 2017

Key House Republican won't guarantee same level of coverage as Obamacare

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Greg Walden. (Jose Luis Magana / AP)

Republicans will have an Obamacare replacement plan, but it may or may not cover as many people as Obamacare, according to Rep. Greg Walden, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Walden will be at the forefront of the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. In a recent interview, he didn't offer many specifics about a replacement plan, saying only there will be one and it might come before President Trump's does. And he said there are actions the Trump administration can take on its own, but the committee isn't necessarily going to wait on a health care plan from the administration before starting its own work.

Keep reading for key takeaways:

  • Expect Tom Price to be pretty active right away, if confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "We think there are some things that when the administration gets into place and the secretary of HHS gets into place that they can do administratively that can provide some relief in the individual market."
  • Walden was vague on most questions about timing, but he suggested that some of the replacement for Obamacare could be included in the upcoming budget "reconciliation" bill: "Some of the repair work can be done in reconciliation. Some of it, as you point out, can't be done in reconciliation. I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time."
  • He doesn't necessarily want to wait to see Trump's plan before acting on his own. "I don't think we have to do that. I mean certainly we're open – obviously would be to any input." They have a "pretty good idea" of what Trump wants, "certainly" of what Price wants in a replacement plan.
  • On whether the replacement plan will lower deductibles and out of pocket costs: "I hope so."
  • But he was more vague about whether it will cover as many people as Obamacare, echoing House Speaker Paul Ryan: "I think our goal is to cover as many people as possible. Now, I'm not going to get caught up in numbers of that, because by the way, we hope the economy's better, and you'll have people more under employer plans than under Medicaid. They're in Medicaid because their wages are lower, they're unemployed, or different reasons. If we grow the economy, that number'll change." To be clear: The uninsured number doesn't change if people move from Medicaid to employer coverage. It does reduce the amount the federal government spends on health care.
  • When asked whether there's a fairness issue between governors of states that have expanded Medicaid and those that haven't, Walden said, "I think there is." He's hearing from governors about it. But, "I'll bet they would like the ability to have some flexibility without having to come to Washington every time to get approval."
  • On Better Way, Paul Ryan's replacement plan: "I wouldn't look at [it] and say that's the bill…but it's a great starting point."

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll nears 11,000

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

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 10,900 in the U.S. early Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data. More than 1,000 people in the U.S. have died of coronavirus-related conditions each day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday this week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 1,347,803 — Total deaths: 74,807 — Total recoveries: 277,402Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 368,196 — Total deaths: 10,986 — Total recoveries: 19,828Map.
  3. Trump administration latest: President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned White House colleagues in late January the coronavirus could take over half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, memos obtained by Axios show.
  4. 2020 update: Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor's attempt to delay in-person primary voting delayed until June.
  5. States latest: West Coast states send ventilators to New York and other states with more immediate need — Data suggest coronavirus curve may be flattening in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
  6. World update: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to intensive care as coronavirus symptoms worsen.
  7. Stocks latest: The S&P 500 closed up 7% on Monday, while the Dow rose more than 1,500 points.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. 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.

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Docs: Navarro memos warning mass death circulated West Wing in January

Image from a memo to President Trump

In late January, President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.

  • By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.

Driving the news: Navarro's grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.

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