Fox News Halftime Report -- It isn’t TrumpCare, after all

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Fox News Halftime Report

May 4, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: It isn't TrumpCare, after all - Trumps blesses more politics in the pulpit - Gowdy warns Rice: Testify or face subpoena - I'll Tell You What: Live bills and dead parrots - Looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays

IT ISN'T TRUMPCARE, AFTER ALL 
If the House, as promised, passes a bill today that would make sweeping changes to the laws regulating the health insurance industry and benefit programs for the working poor what shall we call it?

This note had been going with "TrumpCare" since President Trump and his fellow Republicans rolled out the first draft two months ago. But as the measure has gone through its disruptive lifestyle, perhaps that doesn't fit anymore.

Considering the fact that whatever measure would result after the Senate is through with it would be more generous with benefits and more restrictive to insurance companies, it might be better to think of this initiative as simply cuts to ObamaCare.

The reason ObamaCare is currently failing in so many parts of the country is that insurance companies are dropping out of the program. The initial design was that the government would enact onerous restrictions on insurers but then compensate them with new customers and new profits. That's not what happened, at least in most places.

Because Democrats worried about the unpopularity of the law's mandate that individuals purchase insurance, they kept fines low. The past year was the first time that the already seven-year-old law put much bite into the fines for non-compliance.

The toothless mandate meant that the young, healthy and highly profitable customers promised to insurance providers did not materialize in sufficient numbers.

While some 6.4 million Americans bought policies through the exchanges, many with subsidies from taxpayers, enrollees tended to be older and sicker than insurance actuaries would have liked.

The most expensive provisions for insurers in ObamaCare are those requiring them to write policies even for sick people and requiring them to charge the same rates for people regardless of their health.

New customers compelled by mandates or enticed by subsidies wouldn't be enough to make up for all of that, so the law provided for direct subsidies to the insurance companies themselves. But, Republicans blocked those subsidies as part of a 2014 spending deal.

Without enough customers and with the promised bailout money gone, insurance companies have been leaving the ObamaCare marketplace in droves to focus on the more profitable, more predictable group market.
That's a big problem, but not for most people. About 85 percent of Americans get their insurance either through work or a government program, and while premiums have been climbing there, the current crisis in ObamaCare doesn't harm the vast majority of the country.

The real crisis is for the 7 percent or so of Americans who purchase their insurance on the individual market. Without larger risk pools to offset costlier customers and the aforementioned shortcomings of ObamaCare, more than 20 million insurance customers find themselves in a potentially perilous place with skyrocketing premiums and, in some places, no participating providers at all. 

The way the changes offered in the House today seek to address the problem is by lifting some of the restrictions on insurance companies. But, when faced with the harsh electoral reality of how Democrats would punish GOPers for rolling back coverage for the sickest customers, lawmakers opted to drop the final choice in the laps of the states.

Realizing, though, that a 30-second campaign ad won't note any difference between voting to allow sick people to lose insurance and actually kicking them off, Republicans added billions more to the bill to cover pre-existing conditions through state-level high-risk pools.

But that's not the biggest political bombshell in the legislation. That distinction belongs to a move to start clamping down on the ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid, previously a program for the indigent, to cover the working poor.

Initial estimates that 24 million people would lose coverage under the GOP plan stems largely from ending this provision, which allows adults who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line – $15,800 for an individual or $32,319 for a family of four. The legislation being voted on today drops that expansion, which is estimated to have extended coverage to 10 million people, in two years.

Shutting down subsidies and rolling back the welfare expansions in ObamaCare represents substantial cost savings to the already-expensive existing law. The proceeds of the cuts in this version of the bill are used to roll back taxes on top earners – nearly $900 million worth in the next decade.

So while we can say that the Republican plan definitely blows up core components of ObamaCare, particularly the end of the individual mandate, potentially some of the most significant restrictions on insurers and the coverage for the working poor – you could only just barely call it repeal. And you certainly couldn't call it a replacement, since what it does is essentially provide less of the same thing.

It also seems unlikely that whatever comes out of the more-moderate Republican Senate would be more radical or transformational than this version. One imagines that if the Senate ever gets to the legislation, what comes back will look even more like former President Barack Obama's original law.

For that reason, it isn't really fitting anymore to call this "TrumpCare." Republicans instead are trying to figure out how much they can cut ObamaCare in order to deliver the tax cuts they want.  

On the day after the 2016 election, it would have sounded a bit preposterous to say, but in the end, Obama's legacy looks likely to remain intact.

THE RULEBOOK: SAFETY FIRST
"So far, therefore, as either designed or accidental violations of treaties and the laws of nations afford JUST causes of war, they are less to be apprehended under one general government than under several lesser ones, and in that respect the former most favors the SAFETY of the people." – John Jay, Federalist No. 3

TIME OUT: MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU
In honor of Star Wars Day, we offer the Joshua Rothman's, ahem, exploration of the historical context of a galaxy far, far away: "And, in other ways, 'Star Wars' is of a piece with everything that was happening in the seventies, with the search for greater meaning that was happening at a societal level. The Carlos Castaneda books were a huge influence: all that stuff about going back to basics, finding the magic in everything, becoming your better self, tapping into the power of crystals. All that hippie stuff was influential. 'The Golden Bough' was enjoying a huge revival in the seventies; everyone was reading it. There was a sense of, 'Let's pull everything down, let's find the basis upon which we can all agree, let's figure out that all religions point to this or that.' If 'Star Wars' came out today, instead of then, I think it would still catch on, but it also caught the right wave at the right time."

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

TRUMPS BLESSES MORE POLITICS IN THE PULPIT
LA Times: "President Trump [signed today] an executive order aimed at protecting politically active churches from losing their tax-free status. The order, timed for Thursday's National Day of Prayer, does not include the broad religious liberty provisions leaked in February that could have allowed businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation and other moral objections. The new order contains a more vague blanket statement that declares the administration is committed 'to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.' The order is also designed to allow religious groups to avoid a mandate to provide contraception coverage under President Obama's healthcare law … The most significant portion of the order would direct the Internal Revenue Service to 'exercise maximum enforcement discretion' in enforcing the Johnson amendment, which restricts religious groups from endorsing political candidates without risking their tax-exempt status."

GOWDY WARNS RICE: TESTIFY OR FACE SUBPOENA
Fox News: "Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) responded this morning to former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice declining an invitation to testify before Congress on the unmasking of Trump team members. … Gowdy said a subpoena may have to be used to bring Rice before Congress. 'There are things called subpoenas. You shouldn't have to use it with a former national security adviser but if you do, you do' said Gowdy, calling Rice a 'very important witness.' He said Rice may feel like she cannot testify in an open setting, so a closed-door hearing could be scheduled for Rice to give her account. Responding to FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate [Wednesday], … 'Someone was gonna criticize him no matter what he did. He did what he thought was right,' said Gowdy, adding that Comey didn't tell Clinton to set up a private server or to give 'disingenuous answers' about it throughout the campaign."
 
SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -8 points
Change from one week ago: +0.8 points

I'LL TELL YOU WHAT: LIVE BILLS AND DEAD PARROTS
Health care, Hillary and Old Hickory… Oh my! Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt are back to discuss those three H's, the spending bill and the life of pets. Plus, can Chris redeem himself in this week's trivia? You'll have to listen to find out… LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Poll: Trust in government remains at all-time lowPew

Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia and Vatican on first foreign trip - The Hill

MacArthur may lose Tuesday Group leadership over health billThe Hill

Trump to meet with Australian Prime Minister in NYCAP
 
Top ten states for pre-existing conditions all went for Trump - WSJ

Obama's $400K speech prompts GOP to take away his pension - USA Today

Savage debate marks closing chapter in French nationalist Le Pen's long-shot presidential bidSky News
 
Obama endorses Macron in upcoming French election - The Hill

Read this: Kevin Williamson delivers a devastating insight from the bottom rung of the legal system - National Review  

AUDIBLE: WE SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE…
"If the next three years and 261 days are like Donald Trump's first 100 days, I wonder if America will ever be ready for a male president again." – Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a speech to pro-Democratic political group, EMILY's List.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"In 1996 New York Times syndicated columnist William Safire outed Hillary for the 'congenital liar' she was then and has continued to be during the entire span of her public life. … Hillary's extreme arrogance reinforced in her mind that she was 'entitled' to the presidency and there was no need to actively and vigorously campaign against the political novice Donald Trump.  I think of Hillary's defeat as a first step in entitlement reform." – Mike Larson, Walton, Ky.

[Ed. note: Zing!]

"I'm quite frankly surprised that someone who wants that wall now (and until Mexico succumbs) hasn't started a Go Fund Me or similar "crowd funding" campaign with the beneficiary being the U.S. Treasury. I understand people can donate money in excess of what they pay in taxes, so why not put something of this nature together and see where it leads." – John David Wild, Bradenton, Fla.

[Ed. note: Wellllllll…. I could see the symbolic virtue of such an endeavor, but in terms of actually getting the project done, it might be a toughie. In its seven years, GoFundMe has raised more than $3 billion in total, and it's most successful campaign to date is reportedly a nearly $8 million fund for the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre. Cost estimates on the border wall do very, but we're talking about something on the order of $20 billion.]

"Always entertaining and informative… but today, what a great vocabulary lesson.  Solopsism is my new favorite word.  Two crossword puzzles a day and that one has never come up.  Can't wait to use it in a sentence." – Mike Grayson, Pataskala, Ohio

[Ed. note: Sincere appreciations from this son of West Virginia Exit 2A of I-70 to you and yours at Ohio Exit 118.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

THE JUDGE'S RULING: IMPRESSIONISM
Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explores the way the NSA uses Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and how it affects Americans: "So, why did the NSA announce that it is pulling back from its customary uses of Section 702? To give the false impression to members of Congress that it follows the law." More here

LOOKS LIKE SOMEBODY'S GOT A CASE OF THE MONDAYS
Daily Mail: "A Florida woman has been convicted of fraud after she tried to fake a workplace injury by hitting herself with a sprinkler head. Sheyla White was out for compensation when she claimed a sprinkler head at Cinque Terre Energy Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Florida fell from the ceiling, bounced off her desk and struck her in the head in 2015. While the sprinkler head did indeed fall from the ceiling, it landed on her desk before White was caught on surveillance camera smashing herself in the face with it. White's employers filed a compensation claim, but the insurance company grew suspicious and launched an investigation. Footage from security cameras inside the office showed the sprinkler head falling onto White's desk. But instead of bouncing up, White could be seen picking up the metal hardware, and looking at it quizzically, before smashing it into her forehead seconds later."



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