On May 4th, the House passed the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), an attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This Republican win came after the bill was pulled from a vote in late March because it did not have enough votes to pass. After Congressional leaders negotiated a few provisions that made conservatives more comfortable with it, the bill narrowly passed by a four-vote margin.
Now, the Senate has been working through the kinks, trying to make improvements that will help it pass in their chamber. While news focused on the Comey hearing last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked Senate Rule 14, allowing the bill to go straight to a floor vote, skipping committee hearings that Democrats planned to use to block the bill. Using this rule gives the Senate more time to pass the law before they leave town for the month of August.
Another hurdle was avoided when Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) posted a press release stating that the text of the healthcare bill complies with the Senate reconciliation process and the strict rules that go along with it. There was concern that some of the language needed to be altered before the parliamentarian could approve it, but that obstacle was avoided.
The Senate will continue working on the final details of the bill before bringing it to the floor to try and get the 51 votes needed for it to pass. Since it will likely be sent back to the House for approval, they must walk a fine line of crafting legislation that passes their chamber, while assuring it is not dead on arrival in the House.
Most Americans want to reform healthcare, and the status quo is not working, as more and more insurance companies pull out of the marketplace and costs rise. It remains to be seen whether the final version of the AHCA will be the type of small-government, cost-saving policy needed, but fiscal conservatives should watch closely as further details develop.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that shows premiums have doubled for individual health insurance plans since 2013. The HHS National Spokesperson stated that Americans were paying a whopping $3,000 more per year on health insurance.
For Nebraskans, the healthcare woes don’t stop there. 100,000 people in the Cornhusker State will be left with only one individual health insurance option next year—leaving just Medica Health. Both Aetna Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska announced this year that they will not participate in the insurance market in 2018. Blue Cross will be dropping the last two insurance plans that meet the ACA’s standards because to stay in the Nebraska market, they would be forced to raise all prices to make up for the losses
To make matters even worse, Medica Health has yet to make a final decision on whether they will even stay. If they were to leave the state market, there would be no insurance providers, forcing residents to pay federal penalties for not buying insurance plans that do not exist anymore, although Cynthia Cox, the deputy director of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that Nebraska will be among only a few states with only one individual ACA insurer, and it is unlikely for Medica to pull out of Nebraska entirely.
However, with so many companies dropping out of the insurance market because they are not making a profit, the brokenness of the status quo and need for reform. Congress should work to find ways that make health insurance more affordable and higher quality for all Americans.
The debate over Pentagon spending is hardly new, but it has picked up again after President Trump requested an additional $52 billion in funding for the Pentagon. Fiscal hawks are skeptical about large budget increases after reports this January that leaders had buried an internal study exposing waste throughout the department, not to mention the longtime failure to pass an audit.
Now, evidence has surfaced that the department has raised $6 billion over 7 years by charging excessive fuel prices to its armed forces. The Washington Post reports:
Since 2015, the Defense Department has tapped surpluses from its fuel accounts for $80 million to train Syrian rebels, $450 million to shore up a prescription-drug program riddled with fraud and $1.4 billion to cover unanticipated expenses from the war in Afghanistan, according to military accounting records.
These prices rise because the Pentagon uses a system dating back to WWII, originally intended to improve efficiency and stop duplication: It buys fuel centrally and sells it back to the armed services and other customers at a fixed price. The problem? This price is often high above market rate, sometimes as much as a dollar per gallon.