President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday intended to allow small businesses and potentially individuals to buy a long-disputed type of health insurance that skirts state regulations and Affordable Care Act protections.
The White House and allies portray the president’s move to expand access to “association health plans” as wielding administrative powers to accomplish what congressional Republicans have failed to achieve: tearing down the law’s insurance marketplaces and letting some Americans buy skimpier coverage at lower prices. The order represents Trump’s biggest step to carry out a broad but ill-defined directive he issued his first night in office for agencies to lessen ACA regulations from the Obama administration.
Critics, who include state insurance commissioners, most of the health-insurance industry and mainstream policy specialists, predict that a proliferation of such health plans will have damaging ripple effects: driving up costs for consumers with serious medical conditions and prompting more insurers to flee the law’s marketplaces. Part of Trump’s action, they say, will spark court challenges over its legality.
Trump said that Thursday’s move, which will initiate months of regulatory work by federal agencies, “is only the beginning.” He promised “even more relief and more freedom” from ACA rules. And while leading GOP lawmakers are eager to move on from their unsuccessful attempts this year to abolish central facets of the law, he said: “We are going to pressure Congress very strongly to finish the repeal and replace of Obamacare.”
Under the president’s order, association health plans will be able to avoid many ACA rules, including the law’s benefits requirements, limits on consumers’ yearly and lifetime costs, and ban on charging more to customers who have been sick. Critics warn that young and healthy people who use relatively little insurance will gravitate to those plans because of their lower price tags, leaving older and sicker customers concentrated in ACA marketplaces with spiking rates.
Shares of gunmakers jumped 5% in early trading Monday after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Storm Ruger (RGR) was up $2.65, or 5.1%, to $54.35 and American Outdoor Brands (AOBC), the former Smith & Wesson, rose 71 cents, or 4.7%, to $15.96. Last year the board and shareholders of Smith & Wesson, which makes and sells pistols, revolvers and rifles, voted to change the name of the company to American Outdoor Brands, which CEO James Debney said at the time better “represents” the company’s “growing array of brands and businesses in the shooting, hunting and rugged outdoor enthusiast markets.”
The move higher in gun stocks is due to the perception that there is bigger potential for tighter gun controls, as well as a belief that gun buying will pick up as Americans look to better protect themselves, says Gary Kaltbaum, president of investment firm Kaltbaum Capital Management.
It is not uncommon for shares of gun makers to rise after high-profile shootings, and oftentimes the initial price moves are sparked by computer-driven trades that buy on the news.
“The market always has an instinctive reaction to events and more and more it’s algorithmically induced,” says Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.
“Traders believe that people will go out to buy guns for self protection; perhaps those who have been thinking about it but who have been debating the merits of the purchase,” Krosby says. These attacks, which are becoming too common, too regular and a seemingly inherent part of our cultural landscape,” she adds, “have potential buyers of guns wondering if they would be more difficult to buy, or even outlawed.”
The Republican-led Congress failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) this weekend, spreading fear among states that rely on federal funding for the program.
Lawmakers missed the September 30th deadline to reauthorize the Clinton-era initiative, which provides insurance coverage for millions of kids in families with lower to middle-class incomes.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) insisted last week that an “overwhelming number of states have some money to continue to spend” on the program. “So think that in other words, there’s a few days leeway — there might be a few weeks leeway,” he added. “But I can’t be specific because I don’t know but it’s too bad it’s not done right now.”
Despite Grassley’s assurances, many states are concerned because their federal funding for CHIP runs out on Saturday. With no incoming vote on reestablishing the program’s $15-billion appropriation, states are in turmoil. Even those who have money now can’t escape the consequences of Congress’ inaction, because they can’t merely assume that Congress will eventually get around to reauthorizing the funding, they have to start planning to shut down their programs now, or reallocate funding from other sources.
The consequences will be dire in many states, which will have to curtail or even shut down their children’s health programs until funding is restored. Hanging in the balance is care for 9 million children and pregnant women in low-income households.
What happened? The simple answer is that congressional Republicans’ last harebrained attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act got in the way. A funding bill for CHIP seemed to be well on its way to enactment until a week or so ago. That’s when the effort to pass the egregious Cassidy-Graham repeal bill sucked all the air out of the legislative room, even though CHIP is one of the few federal programs that has enjoyed unalloyed bipartisan support since its inception in 1997.
Agreement on a bill had been reached in mid-September by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “Momentum was building,” says Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a children’s advocacy group in Washington. Then came Cassidy-Graham, and “we couldn’t even get a meeting,” Lesley says. “No one was even taking our calls.”
By the way, if you’re wondering why Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price hasn’t bothered to sound the alarm about CHIP funding, which falls within his bailiwick, consider that as a Georgia legislator he voted twice against expanding the program in his state.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. led coalition fighting Islamic State militants on Friday confirmed that another 50 civilians had been killed in strikes in Iraq and Syria, raising the total number of civilians it has killed to 735 since the conflict began in 2014.
The coalition said in a statement that during August, it had assessed 185 reports of civilian casualties and found that the additional 50 deaths occurred in 14 incidents that it deemed were credible.
The most recent fatalities happened July 14 when 10 civilians were killed in a strike on an IS tunnel system in Mosul, Iraq.
In each case, the military said all feasible precautions had been taken to avoid harming civilians.
The coalition, battling to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, says it goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. The military’s official tally is far below those of outside organizations. The monitoring group Airwars says at least 5,486 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes.
That raises the total number of civilians assessed to have been unintentionally killed by the coalition since August 2014 to 735.
Equifax CEO and Chairman Richard Smith stepped down Tuesday, becoming the latest executive of the credit-reporting giant to step down following a massive cyberbreach that compromised personal information for 143 million U.S. consumers.
Announcing that Smith’s retirement would take effect immediately, the company named current board member Mark Feidler to serve as non-executive chairman. Paulino do Rego Barros, a seven-year Equifax veteran who most recently served as president of Asia Pacific, was appointed as interim CEO, pending a search for a permanent successor in that post.
Smith, 57, a former General Electric executive, exits after serving at Equifax’s chief executive since 2005. Despite the controversy surrounding his departure, he has won company plaudits for leading growth that produced total shareholder return of 294% compared with 145% for the S&P 500 Index, according to the preliminary 2017 proxy statement Equifax filed in March.
As of Dec. 31, 2016, the value of Smith’s accumulated retirement benefits stood at nearly $18.4 million, according to the proxy statement.
However, a regulatory filing Tuesday said Smith agreed with the company to defer any characterization of his departure and decisions on benefits owed to him, pending completion of the Equifax board of directors’ review of the cyberbreach. Both sides also agreed that Smith won’t receive a potential bonus for 2017, the filing said.
Smith will stay on for up to 90 days, without pay, to provide assistance to the company.