NEW: Trump Administration to End Obama’s Contraception Mandate

One of the most egregious examples of a federal attack on religious liberty in recent years may be about to come to an end. There are reports that the Trump Administration is preparing new regulations that will end the birth control mandate established by the Obama Administration as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times reports that new rules, which could be issued on Friday, would offer exemptions to certain employers who have moral objections to providing insurance that includes contraceptives to their employees. The new rules would reportedly cover employers and insurers who hold “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” against providing contraception.

The mandate was not part of the ACA, but was the product of regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services. While the Obama Administration did provide a religious exemption from the rules, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo noted in 2011, “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption….”

Many private employers also objected to the fact that the regulation required them to purchase insurance for their employees that included not only contraceptives, but drugs that induce abortions. Others, such as employers who are Catholic, objected to contraception in general.

The mandate prompted several lawsuits. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious charity made of nuns who practice celibacy, went to the Supreme Court to seek relief from the mandate. In 2015, Hobby Lobby won its lawsuit and the government was forced to amend its rule to provide religious exemptions. In the final rule, insurers were still forced to provide coverage for these employees, but the employers were not billed for the contraceptive coverage.

President Trump promised to end the revised mandate during the campaign, but so far has not taken steps to do so. In August, Daniel Dinardo, now the Catholic Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, wrote an op-ed in The Hill asking why the Obama-era policy was still in place.

It is important to note that changing the contraception mandate will not ban contraception in any way. It would merely mean that employers would not be forced to pay for drugs that they find morally objectionable. Their employees will still be able to get birth control and abortifacient prescriptions, they would just have to bear the cost, about $50 per month, on their own.

If President Trump does decide to roll back the Obama-era mandate, he will have fulfilled an important part of his promise to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The big question is why he waited so long to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: Tom Price Fired By Trump

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has reportedly been fired by President Donald Trump. Price has been under fire for his use of private aircraft at taxpayer expense.

Price ran up a charter flight tab of $400,000 for domestic travel. He had promised to pay the charter costs back when Politico reported on Thursday that Price had also used military aircraft on international trips with White House approval. The cost of the military flights was estimated at $500,000. President Trump had indicated that he would decide whether to fire Price and announce his decision by Friday night.

Now CBS News is reporting that Trump has reached a decision to fire the embattled HHS secretary, citing a statement by White House spokesman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. According to the statement, Don Wright, currently the deputy assistant HHS secretary, will be designated as acting secretary in the interim.

 

Tom Price Will Pay for His Past Private Air Travel

Health and Human Services Secretary – and former Georgia 6th district representative – Tom Price has found himself at the center of controversy over his use of chartered flights. On Thursday he attempted to quell the issue by announcing that he will write a check for nearly $52,000 to pay for the flights he has taken.

In a statement, Price said, “I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” and he noted that “[t]he taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.” The secretary also said that he will cease relying on private air travel.

According to Politico, many of the chartered flights Price had taken had much cheaper commercial alternatives. At the same time, it’s not too much of  a stretch to imagine that, given Price’s well documented opposition to Obamacare both during and after his time in Congress, along with the current climate of incivility, Price on a commercial flight could prove to be disruptive to other travelers.

The Politico investigation that centered on Price has led to scrutiny of other member of Cabinet as well. Needless to say, President Trump is none too happy with the bad press the Price investigation has brought to the administration, and there are even calls to fire the secretary.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday wouldn’t commit to keeping Price in his administration, saying only “we’ll see” when asked whether Price would be fired. Trump has privately fumed over Price’s use of expensive charter jets, and some aides have called for firing Price. Hours before Price’s announcement, the White House on Thursday said it had ordered HHS to halt all private flights.

“As the president said yesterday, he’s not thrilled — certainly not happy with the actions,” White House press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Price has said that he is working to “regain the trust” of both the American people and the Trump administration. The real question is: will Price’s act of contrition be enough to call off the Democrats who go after the GOP at every opportunity? Probably not. Will Politico find more reasons to put members of the administration in a negative light? Probably so.

As long as a Republican is in office, nitpicking like this will never go away.

Analysis Shows Surprising News about the Cruz Amendment

As the latest GOP attempt to replace Obamacare with – well, anything – crumbles to dust, new analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services shows surprising news about Ted Cruz’ amendment to the bill. It turns out that the Cruz Amendment, which would allow insurers to offer any plan as long as they offer one Obamacare-compliant plan would lower premiums and increase enrollment, according to the HHS report.

The Washington Examiner reports:

According to HHS, those likely to sign up for Obamacare-compliant Silver plans, presumably those who are considered high risk, would pay on average $380 per month in 2024, down from $845 per month projected under current law.

Consumers who purchase plans outside of the Obamacare mandates would save even more money by 2024 and would pay $240 per month on average.

However, the HHS analysis is based on the assumption that non-Obamacare compliant plans would carry a $12,000 annual deductible.

Enrollment in the individual market would climb, according to HHS.

New language added to the Cruz Amendment places all individuals into a single pool rather than the original plan that would divide higher risk people and those of lower risk into separate pools.

Cruz’s office asked HHS to analyze both the single risk pool plan and the plan with dual risk pools. Cruz believed GOP leaders would more likely use the single risk pool plan but wanted to “give conservatives the opportunity to continue to fight for an even stronger version of Consumer Freedom.” a Cruz source said.

Now Cruz wants to convince lawmakers on both ends of the party’s political spectrum that the plan saves money and helps enrollment.

Politico spent more time attempting to poke holes in the analysis than reporting on the HHS findings, making a claim that the data and assumptions are flawed.

But its conclusions on the Cruz proposal’s effect on premiums are derived by comparing the costs for a 47-year-old under Obamacare to those for a 40-year-old under a scenario that tacks Cruz’s amendment onto Obamacare — an apples-to-oranges comparison that also doesn’t take any of the effects of the Senate GOP’s own health care bill into account.

But what Politico doesn’t take into account is the fact that Obamacare is more flawed and wildly unpopular. Reporter Adam Cancryn is waiting for Congressional Budget Office analysis, presumably so he can write an article with a headline screaming how many people the CBO says will be uninsured under an Obamacare replacement.

The truth of the matter is that, flawed analysis or not, anything else is better than Obamacare, and the GOP should give a plan that includes the Cruz Amendment a shot – because it doesn’t look like they’re going to do anything more drastic to Obamacare.

Tom Price Goes to HHS

Donald Trump has chosen Dr. Tom Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price, a Congressman from Georgia, has been pushing a plan to replace Obamacare.

That will mean a special election in Georgia. I hear several members of the State House and State Senate are already on the phones trying to gain support as a conservative replacement for Price. This is going to be a big fight given the secure nature of the seat.

BREAKING: White House Admits Democrats Will Lose the Senate

Put another way, Kathleen Sebelius has resigned and “Senior Administration Officials” are telling the media it is because of healthcare.gov.

You do not have a celebration event last week to celebrate 7 million sign ups and have Sebelius there to get credit then this week throw her under the bus because of a screw up that happened last October.

They have been standing with her since last October. They stood with her when the President’s polling was nosediving and throwing her under the bus could have stopped the bleeding.

They are doing so now. Sebelius actually resigned last week and the President already has a nominee ready to roll out tomorrow.

Why?

Their internal polling must be terrible and they want her gone and the issue treated as “old news” before the GOP takes the Senate in November.

Sebelius leaving now is a pretty direct admission against interest that the Democrats expect to lose the Senate and do not see any events on the horizon to change that momentum. Now, they’re just trying to slow the momentum down.

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