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President Trump to be a grandfather again

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 1:22 PM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 1:22 PM

FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2016 file photo, President Donald Trump's son Eric Trump and his wife Lara Yunaska in Statesville, N.C. Eric announced on Twitter Monday, March 20, 2017, that he and his wife Lara are expecting their first child. The baby boy is due in September.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File
FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2016 file photo, President Donald Trump's son Eric Trump and his wife Lara Yunaska in Statesville, N.C. Eric announced on Twitter Monday, March 20, 2017, that he and his wife Lara are expecting their first child. The baby boy is due in September.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

It looks like President Donald Trump is going to be a grandfather again.

Trump’s son Eric tweeted that his wife Lara and him are having a boy in September.

He will be there first child.

President Trump retweeted saying “Congratulations Eric and Lara. Very proud and happy for the two of you.

Trump has eight grandchildren. Arabella, Joseph and Theodore Kushner and Chloe, Kai, Donald III, Tristan and Spencer.

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New GOP health care plan faces questions over how it deals with pre-existing conditions

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 3:17 AM

As Republicans try to push ahead with a new plan to overhaul the Obama health law, one flash point has erupted on how the GOP effort would impact people with pre-existing health conditions, as backers and opponents have come to much different conclusions on that important policy matter.

The issue of how people with pre-existing conditions are treated has been a controversial one throughout this year’s legislative push by the GOP to coalesce behind a plan that would repeal and replace the Obama health law, as supporters of the law argue it’s one of the most popular aspects of the existing law, as it prevents insurance companies from discriminating against people because of their past medical history.

In a tweet sent out on Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump declared his strong support for the Graham-Cassidy plan, specifically trumpeting what he says is ‘coverage of pre-existing conditions.’

As for what’s in the actual proposal from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – the language does not expressly say that people with pre-existing conditions can keep their coverage without facing premium increases, as under the Obama health law.

And the bill text doesn’t expressly say that states can get rid of requirements to cover pre-existing conditions, either – but it leaves open that possibility.

Here is the only mention in the legislative text about pre-existing conditions:

The Graham-Cassidy plan would allow states to change the “Essential Health Benefits” that are required under the Obama health law – basically, these are items that must be included in health coverage by insurance companies, preventing higher premiums based on age, lifetime caps on medical coverage, and the refusal to cover certain items because of a pre-existing medical condition, and more.

Under the plan, states would be allowed to seek a waiver from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to change the EHB’s for that state; some states might want to keep the current Essential Health Benefits, while others could seek something different in terms of minimum coverage requirements.

Some outside groups, and insurance companies have said their read of the language is that coverage for pre-existing conditions would be in danger in the Graham-Cassidy plan.

The current GOP plan is to have a vote on the Graham-Cassidy language sometime next week. The Senate must act before September 30 in order to use a parliamentary procedure that prevents a Senate filibuster.

Senators will be back on Monday for votes – at this point, the GOP does not have 50 votes for this new plan.

Sen. Rob Portman wants opioid money added to health care bill

Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 5:00 PM

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
Washington Bureau
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio(Washington Bureau)

Sen. Rob Portman has privately urged Senate Republican leaders to include billions of federal dollars to treat opioid addiction as part of a controversial health bill that could reach the Senate floor next week.

The bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, would dramatically revise the 2010 health law known as Obamacare by shifting hundreds of billions of dollars to the states to design their own health plans.

But the bill does not specifically include any money to treat the epidemic of opioid addiction, an issue Portman, R-Ohio, emphasized during his re-election campaign last year. More than 150,000 people in Ohio are undergoing through Medicaid treatment for opioids and other drugs.

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“While he is still reviewing this latest proposal, Rob has and will continue to advocate for additional opioid funding just as he has done throughout the health care debate,” said Emily Benavides, a Portman spokeswoman.

Portman’s request for opioid money came as a new study shows Ohio could lose as much as $9 billion in federal dollars by 2026 if congressional Republicans approve the Graham bill.

Released by the Washington consulting firm of Avalere Health, the study suggests lawmakers in Columbus would have to find billions of new state dollars to maintain current levels of health care for people receiving Medicaid, the joint federal and state program which provides health coverage for low-income people.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich relied on federal Medicaid dollars made available through Obamacare to extend coverage to more than 700,000 low-income people. Obamacare allowed families of four earning as much as $34,000 a year to qualify for Medicaid.

The report, sponsored by the Democratic leaning Center for American Progress, may undercut efforts by Senate Republicans to push the bill through next week with a parliamentary maneuver that would require just 51 votes.

Jon Keeling, a Kasich spokesman, said, “Make no mistake, losing billions of dollars would be devastating to Ohio as we work to provide care to our state’s most vulnerable and drug addicted.”

“The only ones who can support this legislation are those who haven’t had time to properly assess the damage it would do,” Keeling said.

Although Portman has yet to say whether he would support the Graham bill, he told reporters Wednesday that he is “supportive of the idea of getting flexibility back to the states.”

At Portman’s urging, Senate Republicans last July included $45 billion in opioid treatment money in a bill aimed at scrapping Obamacare. But the bill collapsed in the Senate.

Because Graham’s bill would provide states with greater authority to design their own health plans, states could use those dollars for opioid treatment. But states such as Ohio would likely face a financial squeeze by having to use fewer federal dollars to finance coverage for Medicaid and help middle-income people pay for federally subsidized insurance policies established by Obamacare.

“This bill is worse than the last one,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “First, there is no money dedicated for opioid treatment. Second, it’s worse for those states (such as Ohio) where Governor Kasich did the right thing and expanded Medicaid.”

“If it passes, frankly the Republican majority should be ashamed of themselves,” Brown told reporters on a conference call.

The Graham bill, in essence, would tell the states they could stay in Obamacare or take billions of federal dollars to design their own programs. The federal government would supply states with per-capita grants.

The bill would repeal the law’s requirements that individuals buy federally subsidized insurance policies.

Ryan: Congress likely to approve more hurricane disaster relief in October

Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 4:45 PM

As Hurricane Maria was ravaging the island of Puerto Rico, House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a Wednesday visit to Florida that he expects the Congress will vote on more disaster relief money next month, as federal agencies deal with the aftermath from three major hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“I’m sure that we’re going to do another, what we call a supplemental, sometime in October, once we have a full assessment of what is needed,” the Speaker said, after spending the day looking at storm damage across Florida.

Earlier this month, lawmakers approved $15.3 billion in extra aid for Hurricane Harvey; while that money was expected to allow for initial aid for victims of both Harvey and on Hurricane Irma relief, the expected damage from Hurricane Maria will mean an even bigger drain on federal emergency budget accounts.

The Speaker’s comments came after Ryan toured damaged areas in south Florida, which included a flight from the U.S. Coast Guard over the Florida Keys.

“From Marathon to Key West, it was really pretty extensive damage,” Ryan said, noting that he was familiar with the area from fishing trips he has made to Florida in the past.

“It was really astounding, the kind of damage that is done, not just to the ecosystem, but also to the homes and the structures,” the Speaker added.

Ryan was accompanied not only by local lawmakers from Florida, but also by the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who would be in charge of any extra aid package in the House.

“We will work together to make sure that the necessary federal resources are in place for the rebuilding,” the Speaker said. “We will be there every step of the way.”

No estimates have been given on how much the Congress will have to pony up in terms of federal aid for Harvey, Irma and Maria; the Governor of Texas at one point said he thought his state might need over $100 billion from Uncle Sam, and the costs will certainly climb with damage to Puerto Rico from Maria.

Senate panel hears call for better hurricane prep at nursing homes and assisted living facilities

Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 10:44 AM

Citing the deaths of seniors at a nursing home in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and a viral photograph of seniors in waist deep water at a facility in Texas during Hurricane Harvey, a U.S. Senate committee was urged on Wednesday to support stronger regulations for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to better protect older Americans during hurricanes, floods, and other emergencies and natural disasters.

“We need generators to support medical needs and air conditioning to cool reasonable temperatures, as well as fuel,” said Kathryn Hyer, a professor at the University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies.

Hyer said her past research has shown that it is better for seniors at nursing homes and assisted living facilities to shelter-in-place, rather than go through evacuations during hurricanes – as she told the Senate Special Committee on Aging that better planning is needed for those facilities.

“Nursing homes and assisted living must be built in places that minimize flooding, and they have to be built to standards that allow administrators to shelter-in-place, if at all possible,” Hyer added.

The Senate hearing came as finger pointing continued in the Sunshine State over who was to blame for the deaths of nine seniors at a Broward County, Florida nursing home, after Hurricane Irma caused widespread power outages in southern Florida.

“Older citizens should not suffer for days and then die, in the unbearable heat,” said Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA).

“So many of us were both outraged and enraged when we saw what happened in Florida,” Casey added.

“We must ask ourselves, can we better protect the most vulnerable members of our communities?” asked Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

The hearing was convened as Hurricane Maria was bearing down on the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.

“We have a big one going right now,” President Donald Trump said of the storm during a meeting at the United Nations with the King of Jordan.

“I’ve never seen winds like this – in Puerto Rico,” Mr Trump said. “You take a look at what’s happening there, and it’s just one after another.

“But I think we are doing a good job,” the President added about the federal response.

Overnight, the storm raced just to the south of St. Croix, sparing that part of the U.S. Virgin Islands from serious devastation, though widespread damage was being reported.

Back to the east, there were still few reports from the island of Dominica, which suffered a direct hit from Maria on Monday night.

With communications down, amateur radio operators in contact with the island were getting reports of major damage on Dominica.