Why Trumpcare might sign you up for health insurance without asking - Axios
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Why Trumpcare might sign you up for health insurance without asking

Greg Ruben / Axios

Republicans on the Hill are taking a close look at an idea they believe could actually expand health coverage: just enroll everyone in a health plan unless they opt out.

Hill staffers and conservative health wonks have been tossing the idea around for awhile as a way to replace Obamacare's individual mandate while continuing to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions — something that becomes too expensive without healthy people to cover the costs. Many now point to auto-enrollment as one of the best ways to cover more people without bleeding federal dollars.

The goal: By automatically enrolling people into a basic insurance plan, some Republicans hope to create a new system where coverage is the default for everyone. The idea is a feature of some of the leading Obamacare replacement plans, including a bill by Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Pete Sessions and a white paper by the American Enterprise Institute.

Trump's HHS nominee: Tom Price included auto-enrollment in employer coverage in his Obamacare replacement plan, another sign the idea could gain traction.

There's no consensus that this is the way forward, but "there's a lot of work being done to look into it," said a senior GOP aide.

How it would work: People who don't get health insurance from another source, like an employer, would be enrolled in a bare-bones plan.

It would have the same value as the financial help uninsured people would get — meaning the federal government would cover the cost of the premium, so enrollees would get coverage for free. But they could buy better coverage if they want it.

The catch: This could be a workable policy idea, but it's a political and logistical nightmare. While some Republicans are on board with the idea already, it's going to take some clever messaging to convince small-government conservatives an automatic enrollment policy is less intrusive than an insurance mandate.

The key, supporters say, is to cover the costs. As long as that's done, "it's not viewed as a harmful mandate, because there's no consequence" to someone who doesn't enroll, said the GOP aide.

Here are some outstanding questions and concerns, raised by both liberal and conservative health wonks:

  • Figuring out who to automatically enroll is an insane task. Basically, it would require coming up with a list of everyone in the country and then comparing that to the list of everyone who has private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Private insurers have to agree to participate. Figuring out how it actually works — and how insurers can turn a profit — would be complicated. "You'd have to find a way to make sure, if there's more than one insurer, that the actual expenses of covering these upper-end costs for people pretty much balances out with a reasonable profit margin," said Joe Antos, a conservative health economist and a member of the Axios board of experts.
  • Liberals still think the mandate is the better option. "I think more people would opt out of enrollment than would take a fine with the individual mandate," said Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economics professor who consulted on Obamacare. But "it's better than nothing."
  • The default health plan would be very skimpy coverage. Deductibles would probably be at least $10,000, and many services wouldn't be covered — meaning people would have to pay for a lot of medical costs themselves. "I don't think that's going to fly with the American public," since high deductibles are already one of the biggest complaints about Obamacare, Gruber said.
  • It probably would help keep the individual market balanced. That's not nothing — it's better than a market meltdown. But don't expect the customers to be happy with what they're getting. "The best case scenario is a stabilized market for shitty insurance," Gruber said.
  • This isn't a money-saving idea for the government. At least not if it's going to work, Antos said. "It's a way of stabilizing the individual market. But if it's also going to be used as a way to save billions of dollars, then it's not going to save the individual market."

Our thought bubble: This seems to solve the GOP's biggest problems, but if there's a reason it doesn't go anywhere, it's because not enough members know about it or understand it.

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Uber gets competitive in the food-delivery service

McDonald's ordered through the Postmates service. Photo: Chandice Choi/AP

Along with the development of ride-sharing services came food-delivery services: ordering food through an app and having it delivered to your door. The New York Times cited a study by McKinsey that found food delivery "is a $100 billion-plus market, or about 1 percent of the total food market." And Uber wants a piece of that market.

Key numbers: UberEats is available in more than 120 markets around the world. The number of trips for UberEats drivers grew more than 24 times in one year, and by last July it was "profitable in 27 of the 108 cities where it operated," per NYT.

UberEats "sometimes eclipses Uber's main ride-hailing business in markets like Tokyo; Taipei, Taiwan; and Seoul, South Korea," the company told NYT.

But as UberEats continues to thrive, competition looms large:

  • Postmates has raised over $250 million since it started and the company makes 2.5 million deliveries each month. Like UberEats, Postmates is a full delivery service system.
  • Grubhub has "an active base of 8.17 million customers," and Matt Maloney, the company's founder, told the Times their sole focus on take-out ordering sets them apart.
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Price will stop using taxpayer-funded private jets

Trump and HHS Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill to rally support on health-care reform. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has racked up more than $400,000 after using a private jet to embark on his taxpayer-funded travels, Politico found. Now, Politico reports that Price will stop using a private jet for these travels because "We've heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart," Price told Fox & Friends earlier today.

What's next: His department's inspector general will review his travel and the associated costs, and a decision will be made after that review is complete. A federal contract noted that Price cost taxpayers at least $65,000 in the last week alone, Politico notes.

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Golden State Warriors will not visit the White House

A rally to celebrate the Golden State Warriors' NBA basketball championship. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Trump called out Stephen Curry in a tweet this morning (rescinding his invitation to the White House), his team stood with him and announced they will not be attending the White House visit at all.

"While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House," the statement read, "we accept President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited."

"We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them," the statement continued. "We're disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have an open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.

Big picture, from Axios' Mike Allen: Trump is wading into culturally sensitive territory that could freshen opposition elsewhere, and ignite a debate wholly unrelated to anything he's trying to accomplish.

Go deeper: Trump vs. Curry, LeBron and pro athletes.

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N. Korea: strike on U.S. is "inevitable"

In this unverified image from the North Korean government, Kim Jong-un is said to inspect loading of a hydrogen bomb into an ICBM, at unknown location (Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service, via AP)

North Korea's foreign minister said today a strike on the U.S. is "inevitable," just after it was revealed that there were American fighter jets flying over the seas of North Korea.

"None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission" and said that Trump's insults against North Korea and its leader make "our rocket's visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more."

Context: Trump called Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man" in a recent tweet, which he restated during his UN speech, saying "Rocket Man" is "on a suicide mission."

North Korea's foreign minister shot back at Trump, saying POTUS has "turned the White House into a noisy marketing place full of crackling sounds of abacus beads and now he has tried to turn the U.N. arena into a gangsters' nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day."

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Mexico hit with massive aftershock from earthquake

A woman attends an outdoor Catholic Mass near the school that collapsed during the earthquake in Mexico City. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

An aftershock of the 8.1-magnitude earthquake earlier this month went through the southern state Oaxaca this morning, measured at a magnitude of 6.1, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Mexico is still recovering from the 7.1 quake on Tuesday that killed over 300 people. This is the third one this month. A resident of one of the cities hit by the earthquake on Sept. 7, Nataniel Hernandez, told the AP that Saturday's tremor is "one of the strongest movements he has felt" since then, but that "it has not stopped shaking."


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American fighter jet flies over North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and Choe Ryong Hae, vice-chairman of the central committee of the Workers' Party, Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP

The Pentagon reported B-1B bombers from Guam and F-15 fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, have flown over the waters of east North Korea, the "farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone...any American fighter or bomber has flown this century," the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Dana White, Defense Department spokeswoman, said it was a "demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message" that Trump "has many military options to defeat any threat."

Go deeper: The psychological profile of Kim Jong-un, and how he and his "massive ego...reacts harshly and sometimes lethally to insults and perceived slights."

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Trump: NFL players shouldn't "disrespect" our flag

Photo: AP

After numerous professional athletes tweeted about Trump (who made offensive remarks about the NFL and its players who kneel during the national anthem), he kept the conversation going:

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Iran tested a ballistic missile

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sits before addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Jason DeCrow / AP

Iran unveiled its latest ballistic missile Friday and said it tested it today, Reuters reports. State television carried footage of the test. Iran said it is capable of carrying multiple warheads, of flying 2,000 km is capable of hitting parts of the Middle East, including Israel, a key American ally, per the AP.

The Trump effect: This is a challenge to Trump, since Trump signed a bill imposing penalties on those involved in Tehran's ballistic missile program last month. (The U.S. has said Tehran's tests violate a UN resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal.)

Iran's defense minister said "we will certainly not be the least affected by any threats and we won't ask anyone's permission" about its missile program.

Context:

  • Trump said this week he has "decided" whether to exit the Iran nuclear deal, but wouldn't reveal the decision.
  • Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said earlier this week if Trump follows through on his threats to nix the nuclear deal, America would pay "such a high cost."

The Trump administration re-approved sanctions waivers for Iran as part of the nuclear deal last week. The deadline to re-certify the deal as a whole is coming mid-October.

Go deeper: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran may be honoring technical aspects of the deal

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Scott Pruitt met regularly with industry lobbyists

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the media during the daily briefing. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has made decisions that benefit certain lobbying groups — soon after meeting with the corporate executives that represent them, according to his schedule obtained by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: While WaPo reports that Pruitt met with three public-health and environmental advocates, the meetings with industry advocates far outweighed them.

Mining, automobile, and fossil fuel executives are some of the big groups Pruitt has met with. Before relaxing Obama-era automobile fuel-efficiency standards, he met with General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and the "industry's lobbying arm" Auto Alliance. He met with the biggest commercial truck "glider" manufacturer in the U.S. before announcing he would "revisit an October 2016 decision to apply greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks to gliders."


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Steve Bannon to headline Roy Moore rally in Alabama

Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Steve Bannon is heading to Alabama Sunday night to rally for Judge Roy Moore on Monday night with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

Why it matters: This rally is three days after President Trump, Bannon's former boss, was in Alabama rallying for Moore's opponent — Mitch McConnell's favored candidate Luther Strange. For Bannon to make a rare public appearance in such close proximity to Trump shows how invested he is in this race specifically, and attacking McConnell more generally. Another former White House adviser, Sebastian Gorka, rallied with Sarah Palin for Moore on Thursday.

From a source close to Bannon: "Steve is coming to Alabama to support President Trump against the Washington establishment and Mitch McConnell. Steve views Judge Moore as a fierce advocate of Trump and the values he campaigned on."
Allies of Strange and Republicans close to the White House dispute that premise, and Trump points out Strange offered his support for Obamacare repeal with no strings attached, whereas Roy Moore has said he won't support anything less than full repeal.
Trump last night seemed conflicted about his Strange endorsement, suggesting he'd made a mistake and would support Moore if he wins. Moore leads Strange by 9 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
"I'll be honest, I might have made a mistake... If his opponent wins, I'm going to be here campaigning like hell for him." — President Trump on Friday night
Breitbart has gone all in for Moore and is doing its national radio show on Sirius XM from Alabama today through Wednesday.

Multiple senior Breitbart editors are in Alabama, including Washington editor Matthew Boyle, London editor Raheem Kassam, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, and Jeff Poor, an Alabama native and the head of Breitbart TV.

"As of now, everyone is working on the Alabama race," Boyle wrote in a Breitbart Slack channel, per CNN's Oliver Darcy. "If anyone has any questions please let me know."