GOP Health Care Bill Would Cut About $765 Billion In Taxes Over 10 Years

The Affordable Care Act took money from the rich to help pay for health insurance for the poor. The repeal bill passed by House Republicans would do the opposite.

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The health care bill passed by the House on Thursday is a win for the wealthy, in terms of taxes.

While the Affordable Care Act raised taxes on the rich to subsidize health insurance for the poor, the repeal-and-replace bill passed by House Republicans would redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars in the opposite direction. It would deliver a sizable tax cut to the rich, while reducing government subsidies for Medicaid recipients and those buying coverage on the individual market.

Tax hikes reversed

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is funded in part through higher taxes on the rich, including a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax. Both of these taxes apply only to people earning more than $200,000 (or couples making more than $250,000). The GOP replacement bill would eliminate these taxes, although the latest version leaves the payroll tax in place through 2023.

The House bill would also repeal the tax penalty for those who fail to buy insurance as well as various taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. The GOP bill also delays the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-end insurance policies from 2020 to 2025.

All told, the bill would cut taxes by about $765 billion over the next decade.

The lion’s share of the tax savings would go to the wealthy and very wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 20 percent of earners would receive 64 percent of the savings and the top 1 percent of earners (those making more than $772,000 in 2022) would receive 40 percent of the savings.

Help for the poor reduced

Over time, the GOP bill would limit the federal contribution to Medicaid, while shifting control of the program to states. Depending on what happens to costs, states may be forced to provide skimpier coverage, reduce their Medicaid rolls, or both. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of the bill would leave about 14 million fewer people covered by Medicaid by 2026. (The House voted on the current bill without an updated CBO report.)

CBO also anticipated fewer people would buy insurance through the individual market. With no tax penalty for going without coverage, some people would voluntarily stop buying insurance. Others would find coverage prohibitively expensive, as a result of changing rules governing insurance pricing and subsidies.

The GOP bill would allow insurance companies to charge older customers up to five times more than younger customers — up from a maximum 3-to-1 ratio under the current health law. The maximum subsidy for older customers in the GOP plan, however, is only twice what is offered to the young.

The bill also allows insurance companies to offer more bare-bones policies. As a result, young, healthy people could find more affordable coverage options. But older, sicker people would likely have to pay more.

In addition, because the subsidies offered in the Republican plan don’t vary with local insurance prices the way subsidies do in Obamacare, residents of high-cost, rural areas would also suffer. That could include a large number of Trump voters.

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Denmark Now Has A Wild Wolf Pack Again — For The First Time In 200 Years

Two wolves, as caught in night-vision footage by a game camera in West Jutland, Denmark. Scientists say that since 2012, they have confirmed at least five different wild wolves in the country — four males and one female.

Courtesy of Natural History Museum Aarhus

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Courtesy of Natural History Museum Aarhus

It’s been an awfully long time since a wolf pack has called Denmark home — roughly two centuries, in fact.

“Wolves were exterminated in Denmark because of intense persecution,” Peter Sunde, a senior researcher at Aarhus University, tells Newsweek. He says that before a male wolf was spotted wandering the Jutland peninsula north of Germany in 2012, the last verified wild wolf sighting in the country took place in 1813.

While the 2012 discovery was cause for celebration, another question remained: This male can’t simply be a lone wolf, right?

Now, Sunde and Kent Olsen of Natural History Museum Aarhus say they’ve confirmed the presence of not just other wolves in Denmark, but a full-fledged wolf pack — meaning the group has a she-wolf in its midst, as well.

They point to CCTV footage and DNA tests of stool samples recovered by volunteers in the past half-year, which together show four males and a female have been moving through the region.

The researchers believe the female, which bears the elegant code name GW675f, crossed the border into Jutland from Germany across a distance of roughly 340 miles last summer. Now, footage of a pair of wolves suggests she has also found a mate in her new home.

“We expect that they will have cubs this year or the next,” Sunde told national broadcaster DR, according to a translation by the BBC.

To Newsweek, Sunde added: “They may also postpone until next year since they probably have not been established for more than eight months by now. If we observe two wolves together in May-June, they are most likely not mating as the female will stay with the cubs in or near the den while the male is foraging on his own.”

Now that the wolves have arrived, though, concerns have already turned to the reason why they disappeared in the first place — specifically, that “intense persecution.”

But Sunde tells The Guardian he harbors optimism for the pair, which are among more than 12,000 wild wolves in continental Europe, according to the British paper.

“Technically, we can relatively easily manage the wolf population but the challenge is the psychology of humans,” he says. “There are so many feelings and opinions about wolves in Denmark, as everywhere. The wolf debate is very much value-driven rather than related to concrete problems.”

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Film And Food: Sharing The Stories Of Immigrants With Conservative America

Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, the husband-and-wife duo behind the web series Perennial Plate, have made over 160 videos about people, good food and sustainability.

Courtesy of Perennial Plate

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Courtesy of Perennial Plate

Like a lot of creatives distressed by the current political climate, filmmakers Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine want to tell stories that matter right now. They want to make a difference.

The husband-and-wife duo behind the Perennial Plate, a weekly web-based program showcasing sustainable food and farming practices, believe in the power of a meal combined with storytelling to bring people together.

Now, Perennial Plate wants to use its platform to spark a dialogue, particularly with conservative Americans, about immigrants and refugees in this country. Klein and Fine want to sow seeds for tolerance and acceptance — in contrast to fear and distrust. And they’re starting with five short films under the banner “Resistance Through Storytelling” about multi-generational immigrant families making a meal and gathering at the dinner table.

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“Food is as good a place as any to start a conversation. Food and family are the great connectors, something we all have in common,” Klein says. Each film will feature a compelling family who originally hailed from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America or the Middle East.

Klein and Fine have spent almost 10 years telling 160 such tales. They started locally, documenting the foodways of Minnesota, their home state. Then they set off around the country, before eventually circling the globe gathering footage and stitching together intimate portraits of the different ways people farm and cook. For example, the episode Our Heart Within Us recounts the story of Francisco and Lucia, Mayan refugees from Guatemala who came to Alamosa, Colo., in the 1980s. The couple grow plants indigenous to their country of origin in their adopted community; by doing so, they’ve held on to a piece of their homeland.

En route, the husband-and-wife team earned two James Beard Awards (they’re like the Oscars of the food world) and added another partner, fellow filmmaker Hunter Johnson, to the mix.

Mirra Fine shoots an oregano farmer in Hidalgo, Mexico, for the film Homeward. It tells the story of a group of farmers who, tired of people leaving their community for the U.S., decided to keep more home by growing organic oregano.

Courtesy of Perennial Plate

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Courtesy of Perennial Plate

In an intriguing distribution approach, the filmmakers plan to use Facebook advertising, known as sponsored posts, to reach a wider audience and a different demographic than they have to date. They intend to target Americans whose social media preferences suggest they might not be sympathetic to the plight of newcomers to the United States. Sponsored posts can roll out in feeds in specific locations (such as swing states like Wisconsin) and cherry-pick people with particular interests (say John McCain and The Packers).

“We want to get outside of our liberal bubble,” says Klein. “We’re not interested in preaching to the choir.”

The unorthodox distribution model makes sense. These days, many Americans rely on Facebook as a source of news. And the newsfeed on anyone’s social network can create what Klein calls an echo chamber, where a user only sees posts from like-minded people and sources.

The best illustration of this stark division in the dissemination of political information: Perhaps The Wall Street Journal‘s “Blue Feed, Red Feed,” which includes an immigration category. Launched in May 2016, the tool is updated hourly. Even a cursory scroll through the side-by-side feeds reveal there’s nothing fake about the deep divide in news consumed in this country.

A woman from a in China’s Yunnan Province makes tofu in a episode of Perennial Plate called “Where The Water Settles.”

Courtesy of Perennial Plate

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Courtesy of Perennial Plate

“My perspective on immigrants and refugees is entirely positive and based on personal experience,” says Klein.

But some of his family members and friends, who see posts in their newsfeeds from right-wing pundits and their ilk, are nervous and worried about immigrants and refugees, he says. Some of them don’t know any actual recent immigrants, which only adds to the disconnection.

“This doesn’t make them ‘bad,’ ” he says, “but I do think it’s time to get more positive stories of immigrants and refugees in front of audiences that don’t normally see that narrative.”

Daniel Klein picks meat from crabs with the young daughter of a former strawberry picker in Oxnard, Calif., for an episode called “A Day In The Life.”

Courtesy of Perennial Plate

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Courtesy of Perennial Plate

It is widely documented, says Klein, that when a person knows someone of a different background or ethnicity, his or her perspective on that “group” changes. He points to a recent anecdotal story about a member of a mostly white, President Trump-supporting southern Illinois county who was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Its residents and elected officials rallied around Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, a father, restaurant manager and longtime pillar of the community, who also happens to be an undocumented immigrant. Locals didn’t seem to care. They just wanted Carlos back home — in West Frankfort, Ill., that is, according to a New York Times account. He was released from immigration detention in March.

“If we are constantly bombarded with a certain negative story line — say, that immigrants are criminals with no regard for American values, who just want to ‘steal’ jobs from ‘real’ Americans — it creeps into our psyche,” says Klein. “But I’ve never met an immigrant or refugee who didn’t come to this country just looking for the opportunity to have a better life.”

In fact, says Klein, newcomers to this country may have more in common with the political right than they realize. “In my experience, immigrants and refugees have a lot of the same traits as conservative Americans,” he says. “They work hard. They value family. They want to be productive members of their communities.”

The filmmakers, no strangers to crowdfunding, raised over $50,000 via a recent Kickstarter campaign for their latest project. Half the money will go toward production costs and the other half will be used to pay for Facebook advertising, a strategy, says Klein, used before by political campaigns with success.

It’s also an ambitious experiment. And more overtly political than the typical Perennial Plate video. Klein intends to start close to home. He wants to feature a Somali family from Minneapolis, which has the highest population of Somali immigrants in the United States. The impact of the current administration’s travel ban on the predominantly Muslim nation and a spike in deportation threats directed toward the Somali community will likely feature in the film. He’s also keen to cover an undocumented Mexican-American family living in a sanctuary city. He has his eye on San Francisco as a possible location for that shoot.

Will Perennial Plate’s films change attitudes towards immigrants? It’s too soon to tell. But Klein says he has research on his side. He points to a 2016 study by scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, which found that a frank, brief conversation lowered another person’s bigotry when attempting to combat anti-transgender attitudes. So why couldn’t a 5-minute film designed to encourage people to reevaluate their racist or religious biases towards Muslims or Mexicans do the same thing, asks Klein?

Showing someone a different perspective on the immigrant experience might just create some mental space for empathy and understanding. At least, that’s what Klein is counting on.

“This is an opportunity to build a bridge. If we can play a role in people having an attitude adjustment, a shift in thinking, more tolerance towards immigrants, that’s one measure of success for this project,” he says. “We want to engage people around this issue and what better way to do that than through food?”

Sarah Henry is a food writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the author of Farmsteads of the California Coast and the co-author, with chef Preeti Mistry, of the forthcoming memoir with recipes The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul.

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Pulse Nightclub Owner Announces Plans For Memorial

Activists hold a banner in front of the Pulse nightclub site on Thursday in Orlando, Fla.

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John Raoux/AP

The owner of the Pulse Nightclub, the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, has announced plans to turn it into a memorial and museum to commemorate the tragic event.

“This must and will be a healing initiative, one that I believe will inspire supporters who share our vision and understand the sacred responsibility to which we have been entrusted,” Barbara Poma told reporters on Thursday at the Pulse nightclub site.

On June 12, 2016, gunman Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call then opened fire at the gay nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more injured before police stormed the building and shot Mateen dead.

Poma said she sought advice from the groups who established memorials after the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Historically if you look into the research of the other memorials that were done, they were not done by their governments,” she said, as member station WMFE reported. “They were done by foundations and task forces. So I am following the model that has sadly gone before us.”

She said they hope to open the memorial in 2020. It’s not yet clear how much the site will cost, or what it will look like, though Poma emphasized that it is a “community-driven effort” and the museum will showcase “historic artifacts and stories from the event.”

The owners have set up a non-profit fund, the onePULSE Foundation, to handle construction and maintenance of the memorial, as well a community grants to care for the survivors and victims’ families and endowed scholarships for each of the people killed.

The foundation says it will start the process “with a data-driven initiative to collect information about what the victims’ families and survivors envision” through an online survey.

Its board members include prominent members of the LGBT community, including entertainer Lance Bass and retired NBA Player Jason Collins.

“I know once it’s unveiled and we have it here, that we’ll find a place of comfort, but I know in 100 years it should be a place of education, and a place of change and remembrance,” Poma said in a video about the plans.

The Orlando Sentinel described what has been happening at the site since the deadly shooting:

“The entire area around Pulse, 1912 S. Orange Ave., was a crime scene for a week after the attack. But when the street reopened, the vacant black building quickly became a magnet for grief, vigils, flowers, artwork and impromptu memorials. Even now, more than 10 months later, people still visit daily.”

The newspaper added that it’s unclear whether the original nightclub building will be incorporated into the memorial, or will be demolished and reconstructed.

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35 Reported Dead In Iran Mine Explosion; Others Remain Trapped

Iranian emergency personnel aid an injured coal miner after an explosion at the Zemestan-Yurt coal mine in northeastern Iran on Wednesday. Iran state media reported that at least 35 workers died in the incident, while others remain trapped underground.

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An explosion of methane gas collapsed a coal mine in Iran, killing more than 35 people and trapping others underground, according to Iranian state media. Many of those who died had rushed into help miners who were trapped.

Wednesday’s blast was caused when workers tried to jump-start a locomotive, Reuters reports.

IRNA, the Islamic Republic News Agency, says that according to Labor Minister Ali Rabiei, the blast occurred when workers changed the battery of the locomotive, creating a spark:

“‘There were some technical difficulties with the batteries in the depth of 700 meters and changing the batteries was carried out inside the tunnel rather than outside of it and that triggered the explosion,’ Rabiei said on Thursday.”

The tunnel was filled with methane, reports the Tasnim News Agency. PressTV reported that 25 people were taken to the hospital due to gas inhalation.

The explosion happened during a shift change at the mine, which employs more than 500 workers in the Golestan province, near Iran’s northern border with Turkmenistan.

The FARS news agency reports that 21 of the casualties were miners “who were outside and rushed to help the trapped miners through a tunnel that collapsed. ” It says that 81 miners remain trapped more than a mile underground, and that aid workers are trying to keep them alive by pumping air down to them.

There was confusion about how many people were trapped underground, the Associated Press said, with estimates ranging from dozens to 80.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered his condolences to families of the victims on Thursday, Tasnim reported, and that the incident “has grieved the entire Iranian nation.” Rouhani said organizations should work together to hasten rescue operations.

The agency also reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had “expressed deep sorrow” over the deaths, saying that “tragic and disastrous mine incident in Golestan (province) in which a number of hard-working and afflicted workers have lost their lives and a number of other dears have been trapped, made me bereaved and grieving. … It is necessary that all possible measures be taken to rescue those trapped.”

Three days of public morning have been declared in the province, the agency reported.

Industrial accidents are common in Iran, where much of the infrastructure is outdated, according toThe New York Times. “Many construction and mining sites operate with inadequate materials because managers are unwilling to invest in safety measures, and international sanctions have blocked the importing of new equipment.”

In January, a 17-story building caught fire and collapsed in Tehran, killing at least 20 firefighters.

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5 Things To Watch As GOP Health Bill Moves To The Senate

House Speaker Paul Ryan (center) walks to the House chamber ahead of a budget vote on Capitol Hill. Though Ryan was able to deliver 217 votes Thursday to get his GOP health plan through the House, there are still significant hurdles before the bill becomes law.

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After weeks of will-they-or-won’t-they tensions, the House managed to pass its GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act on Thursday by a razor-thin margin. The vote was 217-213.

Democrats who lost the battle are still convinced they may win the political war. As the Republicans reached a majority for the bill, Democrats on the House floor began chanting, “Na, na, na, na … Hey, hey, hey … Goodbye.” They claim Republicans could lose their seats for supporting a bill that could cause so much disruption in voters’ health care.

Now the bill — and the multitude of questions surrounding it — moves across the Capitol to the Senate. And the job doesn’t get any easier. With only a two-vote Republican majority and likely no Democratic support, it would take only three GOP “no” votes to sink the bill.

Democrats have made clear they will unanimously oppose the bill. “Trumpcare” is just a breathtakingly irresponsible piece of legislation that would endanger the health of tens of millions of Americans and break the bank for millions more,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

It’s The Senate’s Turn

House passage of the American Health Care Act is just a first step. As this measure moves to the Senate, it will face a new set of political and policy challenges. Among them:

  • MEDICAID: The House-passed measure makes the most sweeping changes to the program since its inception in 1965. Some of these changes, such as capping federal funding, would provoke intraparty divisions in the upper chamber.
  • UNINSURED RATES: The Congressional Budget Office initially estimated that the House bill would mean the loss of coverage for 24 million people. Many analysts say this number is now likely higher.
  • TAX CREDITS: Some GOP senators are already on record opposing the bill’s age-based tax credits, charging that they will make coverage unaffordable for older constituents. Others, however, describe these credits as “Obamacare Lite.”
  • PLANNED PARENTHOOD FUNDING: The House would defund this reproductive health organization for a year — a step that draws opposition from a handful of Senate Republicans.

And Republicans in the Senate have their own internal disagreements, too.

Here are five of the biggest flashpoints that could make trouble for the bill in the upper chamber.

Medicaid

House leaders correctly point out that their bill represents the biggest changes to the federal-state health program for the poor since its inception in 1965 — a point that appeared to be drowned out during the most recent House debate that focused on coverage for people with preexisting health conditions.

For the first time, federal funding for low-income people on Medicaid would be limited, resulting in what House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., described at an event sponsored by the conservative National Review as “sending it back to the states, capping its growth rates.” It’s a longtime goal for many conservatives. “We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around,” Ryan said.

But it is not a consensus position in the party. Some moderates support the current program, especially for children and people with disabilities. In addition, many GOP governors took the federal government’s offer in the ACA of near-complete federal funding to expand Medicaid to non-disabled, working-age adults, and they are worried about the impact on their residents and their budgets if the expansion goes away and the program’s funding is restricted.

The House bill, wrote the Republican governors of Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas and Nevada in a letter to House and Senate leaders, “provides almost no new flexibility for states, does not ensure the resources necessary to make sure no one is left out, and shifts significant new costs to states.”

That pushback has also created doubts in the minds of some GOP senators. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are among those who have expressed concerns about the House bill, as has Dean Heller, R-Nev., It’s not clear if any of the House changes have satisfied those senators.

Increase In Number Of Uninsured People

The Congressional Budget Office’s initial estimate that the bill could lead to 24 million more Americans without health insurance within a decade spooked many lawmakers in the upper chamber. “You can’t sugarcoat it,” Cassidy told Fox News when explaining that “it’s an awful score.” The final House bill passed without the score being updated, although most outside analysts said the changes were likely to increase the number who would lose insurance.

And Democrats have been using those initial numbers to score rhetorical points, even if they lack the votes in either the House or Senate to stop the bill or change it.

“The CBO’s estimate makes clear that Trumpcare will cause serious harm to millions of American families,” said Schumer. “Tens of millions will lose their coverage, and millions more, particularly seniors, will have to pay more for health care.”

Tax Credits

On one hand, even with the additional $85 billion added by House leaders to help older people pay for their insurance premiums, many moderates feel the age-based tax credits in the bill replacing those in the Affordable Care Act are too small, particularly for people in their 50s and early 60s. The CBO estimated that under the original version of the House bill, premiums for a 64 year-old with an income of $26,000 a year could rise from $1,700 currently to more than $14,000.

That brought a strong rebuke from the powerful AARP, which was an outspoken ACA supporter. “Although no one believes the current health care system is perfect, this harmful legislation would make health care less secure and less affordable,” said a statement from the group.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said she could not support the House bill in its original form because of concerns about the effects on older constituents.

On the other hand, some conservatives in the Senate are ideologically opposed to offering any tax credits. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have all expressed concerns about the bill being too much like the ACA, with Paul referring to it as “Obamacare Lite.” They worry that the tax credits amount to a new entitlement.

“For me, it’s a big stumbling block still that there’s taxpayer money that’s being given to insurance companies,” Paul told reporters in late April. “And I’m just not in favor of taxpayer money going to insurance companies.”

Planned Parenthood

As Republicans have been vowing for years, the House-passed bill would defund Planned Parenthood, although only for a year. That’s likely because a permanent defunding would actually cost the federal government more money, according to the CBO, as some women who lose access to birth control would become pregnant, have babies and qualify for Medicaid. Birth control is vastly cheaper than health care for mothers and babies.

But while cutting funding for Planned Parenthood is overwhelmingly popular in the House, there are a handful of GOP senators, including Collins and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who have said they are likely to oppose a bill carrying this provision.

Procedural Problems

The budget process Republicans are using to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, called reconciliation, has very strict rules that require every piece of the bill to be directly related to the federal budget. It will be up to the Senate parliamentarian, a Republican appointee, to make those determinations.

That’s why the bill does not wipe away all the ACA’s private insurance regulations, including the requirement that insurers not discriminate against customers who have preexisting health conditions.

Some analysts have suggested that the House amendment sought by conservatives to allow states to waive some of the health law’s regulations might run afoul of Senate’s “Byrd Rule,” which limits what can be included in a budget reconciliation measure.

“It could be argued that any budgetary effects of the waiver are ‘merely incidental,’ ” said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in a blog post.

Even Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who negotiated that amendment that won the backing of conservatives, conceded that it could prove problematic in the upper chamber. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done before we can celebrate and all go home,” he said in an interview outside the House chamber.

Democrats say it is one of several provisions in the House bill that might not pass parliamentary muster in the Senate.

For example, analysts have suggested that the GOP replacement for the much-disliked “individual mandate” requiring most people to have insurance or pay a fine might not pass Byrd Rule scrutiny either. That’s because the 30 percent premium penalty that people with a lapse in insurance would have to pay under the bill would go to the insurance company, not the federal government, so it would have no budget impact.

A third potentially problematic element of the original House bill would allow insurers to charge older adults five times more in premiums than younger adults — up from a ratio of 3-to-1 under the Affordable Care Act. That provision could be viewed as not directly affecting federal spending, some analysts predict.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Annotated: Trump's Executive Order On Religious Liberty

The executive order has drawn concern from liberal groups and praise from some religious groups.

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President Trump signed an executive order Thursday “promoting free speech and religious liberty.” The order relaxes political restrictions on religious groups of all denominations. NPR reporters annotated the order below adding context and analysis.

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