Politicians Fight The Clock, And Each Other, On Health Care

And What Are Insurance Companies Up To?

We always say: watch the insurance companies for the best hint of what’s going to happen with health care. And with the Senate developing its health care bill in near complete secrecy, that seems like even more prudent advice right now. So what are health insurers doing? Not much of anything. At least not publicly. And that tells us a lot.

Where are the ads in support of retaining major Obamacare provisions that benefit them? They stand to lose many customers and government subsidies. Health insurers haven’t been shy about publicly slamming government before, or attacking with waves of TV ads. But not this time.

And let’s not forget, Obamacare did a couple of big favors for health insurers:

The “individual mandate” gave them new customers who were required by law to buy private insurance. That will almost certainly be gone from any Republican plan.

It allowed them to put virtually every new person who signed up into a managed care plan, which health insurers like because they make it easier to control costs, but patients don’t tend to like because they can’t see whatever doctor they want and often have to get referrals for everything.

Vox has an extensive examination of the reasons behind health insurers inaction. We think it’s even simpler than they’re making it:

Insurers are in the risk business. Any new health care bill, passed by congress and signed by the Trump, at least allows them to know what their risk will be for the next few years. Currently, and mainly because the White House is playing games, they don’t know what their risk will be month-to-month. Going up against the Republican majority right now also comes with its own risks.

Insurers anticipate getting some of the things back they had to give up under Obamacare. Those include things like pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits.

Is This Really The Best Democrats Can Do?

Mustering a late-night speech-fest in protest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shutting them out? Promising to slow the Senate’s routine business to such a snail’s pace that it might run out of time to pass a bill before the 4th of July, then, hopefully, the August break?

Republicans can only lose two votes in the Senate and still pass health care. So where’s the outrage? Where’s the organization? Where’s the Democratic Dark Money? (We wish those weren’t rhetorical questions.) Democrats say maybe, just maybe, if they slow things down, Republicans will change their minds when confronted with growing numbers of angry constituents. Except, no.

Republicans meanwhile are threatening to stay in session for as long as it takes to get a bill passed, which led us to wonder, how much does congress work anyway? The answer: they spend about 1 out of every 3 days each year in session. Legislators will argue it’s important for them to spend time in their home districts; some would even point to grand old traditions: giving “gentlemen farmers” time to return home to tend their crops. But really it’s about money: especially in the House, where elections are every 2 years and raising funds can be more than a full-time job.

Why The Huge Republican Data Breach Should Scare You

The personal preferences of nearly every single American voter was left out in the open for 12 days on an unprotected cloud server by a data firm called Deep Root that works for the Republican National Committee. 9.5 billion data points in all were in those files: that’s an average of nearly 50 pieces of information per person. Not to worry, says Deep Root, most of the information is publicly available anyway. Problem is, with people giving permission to so many different companies and organizations these days in exchange for access, it’s hard to keep track of which of your habits and proclivities are public, and which aren’t.

Although it may come as no surprise, it’s still shocking to learn the Republican party has a file on the preferences of virtually every single voter in the entire country. This has been a major goal of ultra-Conservative boosters, like the Koch brothers (which Gizmodo says contributed heavily to the exposed files.)

Secondly, while the unprotected data was found by a “white hat” (AKA “good guy”), who discovered the data breach because what they do for a living is go around looking for data breaches, (here’s their first-hand account), it could just as easily have been found by someone with more nefarious intentions, who just goes around looking for data breaches too–but with very different goals in mind. As someone we talked to who is more familiar with these things than we are explained: “there are many entities that crawl the internet constantly looking to see what they can find. So, the odds of this guy being the only one who got it are fairly slim.”

Trump Meets With Tech Giants

President Trump sat down in the same room with the biggest of the big tech leaders, including Apple’s Tim Cook and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (who also owns the Washington Post.) That seemed to be the whole point of the meeting. In case you’re keeping score, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla’s Elon Musk did not attend.

Trump mentioned broad ideas for sweeping updates in technology used by the federal government, and vaguely addressed immigration issues, saying he’d make sure the industry leaders can “get the people you want.”

Some Brief Updates On Important Stories We’ve Told You About Recently:

Otto Warmbier Dies

The American student, who was sentenced to 15-years hard labor in North Korea, and then was suddenly sent home last week in a coma, died Monday. He was 22.

On hearing the news, President Trump lashed out at North Korea, calling it a “brutal regime.” Trump has taken credit for Warmbier’s return, comparing himself favorably to President Obama. (And it is true: Trump got him back, Obama didn’t.)

North Korea’s motive for releasing him now seems clear: it didn’t want him to die while under detention.


Russia warns it will consider U.S. planes targets if they shoot down any more Syrian government planes. The shoot-down of a Syrian jet over the week-end was the first by the U.S. of a manned aircraft in a decade. The U.S. says the plane was attacking fighters supported by the U.S. Syrian says it was bombing ISIS.

Sean Spicer Looks To Be Getting “Kicked Upstairs”

According to Fox News, the White House Press Secretary will soon be taking on a newly created oversight job, but will give up his “day-to-day duties” sparring with press at the podium. Fox calls the new role a “promotion.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been handling a lot of recent briefings, but no word on her chances of getting the job permanently.

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Political Gerrymandering Case

We told you to look out for this last week: The court will consider a lower court ruling that found gerrymandering for the purpose of favoring one political party over another is unconstitutional.

Due to gerrymandering in Wisconsin led by Governor Scott Walker, Republicans won a 60-39 seat advantage in the state assembly, while wining only 48% percent of the vote. But the case is no slam dunk: while courts have reversed race-based gerrymanders, they’ve generally allowed it based solely on giving one political party a leg up.

Georgia Special Election

The most expensive congressional campaign ever will finally come to a close: either Democrat John Ossoff or Republican Karen Handel will represent Georgia’s 6th congressional district after today’s special election.

If you’re into this kind of thing (we are): 538 has a fascinating look at how darn close this contest looks to be, with slight tweaks to data leading to all kinds of different results.

One question in focus on the final days of the campaign: will last week’s shooting of Republican congressmen in DC result in people who might’ve strayed this time, ending up deciding to be more faithful to the party? Another issue: Trump’s inability to get Handel’s name spelled correctly in Tweets supporting her (he would’ve been better off sticking with “Karen H.”)

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