Good morning ... You didn't really think Republicans would just walk away from Obamacare repeal, did you? And they're not, but that doesn't mean there's been a breakthrough. Meantime, keep an eye on those National Institutes of Health budget cuts.
How seriously should you take House Republicans' talk yesterday that they're not giving up on Obamacare repeal, and they're going to keep working until they have enough votes to pass it? You should believe them when they say they'd like to do it. But it's OK not to change your lunch plans for the next few weeks.
Bottom line: This is the beginning of the Zombie Trumpcare movie. The townsfolk know something is afoot, but nobody is getting their brains eaten yet.
Sounds like someone isn't interested in the House reviving Trumpcare. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talking to reporters yesterday:
"I think where we are on Obamacare, regretfully, at the moment is where the Democrats wanted us to be, which is with the status quo ... It is pretty obvious we were not able in the House to pass a replacement. Our Democratic friends ought to be pretty happy about that because we have the existing law in place and I think we're just gonna have to see how that works out."
Caitlin Owens caught up yesterday with Dr. Mario Molina, president and CEO of Molina Healthcare, about Trumpcare and his company's plans for 2018. The main takeaway: No, Republicans shouldn't let Obamacare explode and then try to blame Democrats. "There are actions they can take to stabilize the marketplace and if they choose not to do it, then the blame for the failure will fall on the administration and Republicans," he said.
What he wants: Cost-sharing reduction payments to be available, clarity on whether the individual mandate will be enforced, and finalization of an HHS rule tightening special enrollment periods. (Some top Republicans say they want to find a way to fund the payments, per The Hill.)
What needs to come next: Compromise. "Getting a bipartisan bill is something that'll give us some long-term stability. We don't want to be back here every three, five years trying to repeal something."
And what about 2018 premiums? If they increase, don't blame Obamacare. "Without a mandate and CSRs, yes, I think we're going to see double-digit premium increases. But again, if that happens, it's going to be clearly because of policies and actions that this administration has taken."
The Census Bureau released new data yesterday showing that the uninsured rate fell in 71.3 percent of the nation's counties between 2014 and 2015, the first two years Obamacare was in full effect. That's impressive enough, but our visuals editor, Lazaro Gamio, took the data one step further by taking the Census data back to 2010, the year it was signed into law.
Remember, there was some early stuff for the first few years, but the most important parts — the marketplaces, the pre-existing condition coverage, the subsidies, and the individual mandate — didn't kick in until 2014. Watch how quickly the uninsured rate dropped once that happened.
Yes, but: We know, we know — a lot of bad things also happened, like the canceled plans, higher premiums for individual coverage, high deductibles, and the disappearance of the cheaper plans some people wanted. But the reduction in the uninsured rate is one thing even the critics don't dispute.
And yes, I know how weird that sounds. But hear me out:
Barclay Berdan, the CEO of Texas Health Resources, tells Bob Herman he was "relieved" when Trumpcare didn't pass. He's not necessarily a fan of Obamacare, which he says is built from a lot of parts that don't work together well. But he says the House GOP bill was "put together mostly to get votes and not to get the system to work smoothly." Now, he says, the big issue is how to deal with Texas' sky-high uninsured rate. Read the interview here.
Why are some conservative groups pushing so hard to knock out the Obamacare insurance regulations, when everyone else wants to keep them? Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham, one of the outside conservatives who's urging Republicans to revive the repeal effort, tackles that question in a Washington Post op-ed that posted last night:
What we're watching today: House Appropriations Committee Labor/HHS subcommittee hearing on the HHS budget, featuring testimony from HHS secretary Tom Price, 10 a.m. Eastern. Livestream here. Trump hosts listening session on opioid and drug abuse, 11 a.m. Eastern. Senate Aging Committee hearing on Alzheimer's disease, 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
What we're watching next week: House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee hearing on health care cybersecurity, April 4.
Thanks for reading, and lemme know if you see any Zombie Trumpcares stumbling down the street: firstname.lastname@example.org.