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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    A protester holds a sign in support of undocumented students at a "ICE Out of Oregon" rally co-organized by Milenio.org and Voz HIspana Cambio Comunitario at the ICE offices in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Diego G Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

    A protester holds a sign in support of undocumented students at a “ICE Out of Oregon” rally co-organized by Milenio.org and Voz HIspana Cambio Comunitario at the ICE offices in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Diego G Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

    As on other campuses, students at the University of Utah have been calling for the school to declare itself a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, including those enrolled there.

    There have been marches, a walkout and a rally at the administration building, where protesters taped copies of their demands to the president’s door. One was that the university refuse to work with, or provide students’ immigration status to, government authorities.

    So far, administrators — as on some other campuses — have said no.

    “They were concerned about losing federal money,” said Marisol Perez Gonzalez, a senior sociology major who along with other students took part in meetings with administrators about these issues, and who herself has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status after being brought by her family from Mexico to Salt Lake City when she was 10.

    But while the fate of undocumented students is still up in the air, and the effectiveness of promises at other universities to provide them sanctuary still untested, the attention to the issue in Utah and elsewhere has resulted in something much less widely noticed that could also have a big impact: Long-sought additional support is finally being added on campuses to help these students succeed in college.

    Related: Defying political pushback, private colleges quietly enroll undocumented students

    The University of Utah has quietly agreed to create a resource center for undocumented students, and has hired a coordinator to run it. Similar supports have been put in place by Georgetown, Harvard, Western Washington University, San Diego State, San Francisco State and the California Polytechnic campuses at San Luis Obispo and Pomona.

    Some critics of DACA protection object to undocumented immigrants taking seats at public universities that could go to legal residents, and — while they are ineligible for federal financial aid — getting financial aid in some states or institutional financial aid from some universities and colleges.

    Some 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate high school in the U.S. each year. Ten percent go on to college.

    But Meng So, director of the undocumented-student resource center at UC Berkeley since it became the first in the nation in 2012, said he’s gotten dozens of how-to inquiries from other schools. “We’ve seen a surge in the number of universities reaching out to us,” So said.

    Observers of the protests, and of the new support services for undocumented students, say pressure and attention from the first have led to the second.

    “It’s only because of the … student push that institutions have responded,” said Nancy Jodaitis, director of higher education initiatives at Educators for Fair Consideration, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works with undocumented students. “Institutions have responded to the search for student safety — and the need for centers has followed.”

    The goal of such resource centers and undocumented-student coordinators is to help tens of thousands of undocumented students stay in school and graduate.

    There are an estimated 750,000-plus people with DACA status. About 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from high schools in the United States each year, and as many as 10 percent of those enroll in college, according to some estimates.

    Having a place to go and trained counselors to talk with helps provide a “consistent pathway to getting through” school, So said — particularly since undocumented students face unique challenges, including being ineligible for federal financial aid and, increasingly, living with the risk of federal agents deporting them or their families. Trained staff can help these students find jobs and private scholarships, said Jodaitis.

    Related: How failing to get more Hispanics to college could drag down all Americans’ income

    Perez Gonzalez lobbied for these resources because she knew that many of her high school classmates who were undocumented or had DACA status either didn’t go to college at all or opted for community college and dropped out. She thought it would make a difference if her university created a program and hired staff to focus on students like them.

    Unsurprisingly, the work of the growing number of undocumented-student coordinators has been affected by the political climate. Students are showing up at their offices concerned about news of mothers, fathers, students and others being deported. At Berkeley, So said, “we’re seeing a 40 percent increase in students seeking out mental health services, and a 60 percent increase in those seeking out legal services.”

    More than 500 college and university presidents this month asked the Trump administration to “lift this cloud of fear” and let DACA students continue to study and work until Congress comes up with a permanent immigration reform.

    In the short time that Alonso Reyna Rivarola has worked with undocumented students at the University of Utah, he has seen “a heightened sense of fear,” he said. “Students come to me and ask, ‘Is everything going to end?’ ”

    Some students are even afraid to apply for scholarships, not wanting to risk entering their personal information in databases they fear may fall into the hands of the federal government.

    “I reassure them,” said Reyna Rivarola. “I tell them to keep going to class and so on, until it’s taken away.”

    Related: Needing students, Appalachian colleges reach out to fast-growing Hispanic population

    Trever Bruhn, who worked with Reyna Rivarola at the school’s Office of Engagement, said that creating a resource center is “powerful” for undocumented students. Bruhn said 86 percent of the first-generation students his office helped during the last four years have graduated or are still enrolled — a fact he attributes, at least in part, to helping students meet not just their academic, but also their psychological, emotional and financial needs. He said he hopes the new undocumented-student center will achieve similar results.

    Meanwhile, at Berkeley, after receiving inquiries from 169 schools since 2013, the undocumented-student resource center in February launched the beta version of a website offering guidelines on what services similar offices should offer, and how. Thirty-four colleges and universities have already signed on, So said.

    The Berkeley center provides academic, mental health and legal assistance. Although graduation data has not been collected on the students who have used these services, undocumented students who have visited achieved an average grade-point average of 3.11.

    The resource center “changed my experience as a student,” said Priscilla Muñoz, who graduated from Berkeley in 2015 with a degree in molecular and cell biology. “It’s not just academics. It’s also what you’re doing outside academics that could affect your performance … They ask, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘Are you eating?’ ”

    Related: The mindboggling barriers that colleges create — and that end up hurting their own students

    Muñoz, who wants to continue her studies and go into immunology research, spent years chipping away at community college credits until President Barack Obama introduced DACA in 2012. Obtaining DACA status allowed her to find better-paying jobs, save money and “do what I really wanted to do: study cell biology.” She got her degree two years later.

    She said she also met other students like herself at the center, which helped her feel less isolated.

    Emelyn dela Peña, who coordinated undocumented-student programs as assistant dean for equity, diversity and inclusion at Harvard College before becoming dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Washington University this semester, said creating centers and dedicating staff “makes students feel welcome who may not feel welcome” otherwise.

    “What gets covered is what’s most dramatic. But advocates are pushing on multiple fronts, widening what gets accomplished.”

    “A sense of belonging is very important to student success,” dela Peña said.

    Harvard has now hired its first fellow for undocumented students, to help them find information about everything from academics to immigration law.

    At San Diego State, undocumented students get help with services such as financial aid, food and housing, said Tony Chung, associate vice president for student affairs. He said that, despite the odds against them, 69 percent of such students and other “underserved populations” receiving these services graduate in six years — only slightly lower than the university-wide average of 74 percent. San Diego State, too, is adding an undocumented-student coordinator.

    More students may wind up benefitting from such services in the months to come, as the political churn leading to marches and media coverage continues, experts said.

    “What gets covered is what’s most dramatic,” said Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C. research organization focused on Latinos, referring to the protests. “But advocates are pushing on multiple fronts, widening what gets accomplished.”

    This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

    The post What some colleges are quietly doing to help undocumented students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch the White House press conference on Friday.

    Updated at 3:45 p.m. | Republican leaders pulled the bill once it became clear they didn’t have the votes to approve it.

    Original story:

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a press conference on Friday, amid uncertainty on Capitol Hill over the House vote on the Republican health care bill, that “the president and his team have committed everything they can to make this thing happen.”

    The House vote is moving forward on Friday as planned, he said.

    On House Speaker Paul Ryan’s efforts to wrangle the 216 votes needed to pass the American Health Care Act, Spicer said, “I think the speaker has done everything he can.” It’s up to members of Congress now to decide if they want to be part of the effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, he said.

    “At the end of the day, this isn’t a dictatorship,” though lawmakers will have to go back to their constituents to explain what happened, said Spicer.

    He also said the president is committed to tax reform and plans to move forward on that effort next. “The middle class desperately wants and needs a tax break,” Spicer said.

    You can watch the full press conference in the video above.

    The post WATCH: Sean Spicer addresses Republican health care vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Film director Danny Boyle

    Film director Danny Boyle at the ‘T2 Trainspotting’ premiere on February 10, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

    Here on the NewsHour Arts desk, we regularly go to figures in the arts to ask for their recommendations on what we should be reading, listening to or watching right now.

    This week, we went to filmmaker Danny Boyle, whose “T2 Trainspotting” — a sequel to the cult classic original — was just released in theaters. Boyle, who also made “Slumdog Millionaire,” “28 Days Later,” and “Millions,” recommended several filmmakers whose movies have astonished him.

    Among his favorite directors, he said, was Nicolas Roeg, who was prolific in the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps Roeg’s most well-known work is the 1973 film “Don’t Look Now,” with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, remembered both for a controversial sex scene and stylish and experimental editing. But Boyle’s favorite Roeg film is the much harder to find “Eureka,” which came out in 1983 and stars Gene Hackman, who has now retired from acting.

    “His performance in the first half of that film — because that film is split into two parts — is one of the great moments in cinema for me,” Boyle said. But because the studio reportedly didn’t like the film, “Eureka” got little promotion. As a result, Boyle remembers watching the film in a London cinema hall nearly all alone — and few people remember the film today. “It’s an astonishing film, breathless, brilliant,” he said.

    Among newer films, Boyle recommended the 2016 horror-thriller “Don’t Breathe,” directed by Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez.

    “When you’re a director and you watch movies, sometimes you see a director’s work and you go ‘whoa,’ that guy can really do it, because you sort of understand how films are made,” Boyle said. “Don’t Breathe” was one of them. “You get that shudder moment of thinking ‘whoah, I should retire,'” Boyle said.

    And in upcoming movies, Boyle said he was watching the work of French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who made the 2016 Oscar-winning sci-fi film “Arrival” and 2015 crime drama “Sicario.” Next up for Villeneuve is “Bladerunner 2.”

    “Given that I’m promoting Trainspotting 2, I’m empathizing entirely with Denis Villeneuve at the moment,” Boyle said, and laughed. Both men are bringing out sequels decades after a beloved and cult classic first film.

    Watch Boyle talk about all of his recommendations:

    And tonight, watch NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s full interview with Boyle on PBS NewsHour.

    The post 3 filmmakers ‘Trainspotting’ director Danny Boyle thinks you should be following now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ governor signed a measure Friday requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, reinstating a voter ID law that was struck down by the state’s highest court more than two years ago.

    The bill signed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson closely mirrors the law enacted by the Legislature in 2013 that was found unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court the following year. The latest law is aimed at addressing the argument by some justices that the 2013 law didn’t receive enough votes in the Legislature to be enacted.

    Unlike that measure, the latest version of the requirement allows voters with a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot if they sign a sworn statement confirming their identity.

    “This law is different, in a number of ways, than the previous law, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. It should hold up under any court review. For those reasons, I signed the bill into law,” Hutchinson said.

    The legislation is one of two efforts by lawmakers to revive the voter ID requirement. Earlier this month, they voted to put a proposed constitutional amendment imposing the requirement on next year’s ballot.

    Four of the justices who struck down the 2013 law are no longer on the court, and one of the new justices is a former Republican state legislator. The three justices who said the 2013 law didn’t get the two-thirds vote needed to change voter registration requirements remain on the court.

    The justices no longer on the court weren’t voted out of office because of the ruling. Three retired and the fourth was an interim justice appointed to the court whose term expired at the end of 2014.

    The post Arkansas governor signs bill to reinstate voter ID law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The State Department issued a permit to build the long-delayed Keystone X.L. Pipeline. The $8 billion project would allow oil to be piped from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. President Obama had rejected the project mainly for environmental reasons, but in the Oval Office today, President Trump said reversing that decision puts the country’s economic security first.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s a great day for American jobs, and a historic moment for North America and energy independence.

    This announcement is part of a new era of American energy policy that will lower costs for American families, and very significantly, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The oil industry hailed the decision. Environmental groups vowed to keep fighting the pipeline.

    A federal judge in Virginia ruled in favor today of the president’s revised travel ban. The judge rejected arguments by Muslim plaintiffs who said the ban was discriminatory. And that directly contradicts federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii that have blocked the order. The split increases the likelihood that the issue will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In London, police have made two more arrests in Wednesday’s terror attack that killed four people near Parliament. They have taken 10 people into custody since 52-year-old Khalid Masood drove an SUV into pedestrians, before being killed himself. Security was tight again today around the site of the attack.

    Meanwhile, Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders gathered outside Westminster Abbey for a minute of silence.

    There may be a new migrant disaster in the Mediterranean. A Spanish aid group reports that hundreds are feared dead in three possible sinkings off Libya. Rescue workers were out today hunting for survivors. The search began after they came across bodies in the water.

    JUAN FE JIMENEZ, Volunteer Doctor:Yesterday at 6:30 in the morning, we found the first body, and four more of young African migrants from ages between 16 and 25. Then we found also the wrecks of two boats. We guess there might be around 200 people missing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So far this year, almost 600 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. More than 5,000 perished in 2016. That was the deadliest year ever.

    Salvage crews in South Korea today finished raising a sunken ferry responsible for the deaths of more than 300 people in 2014. Then, two barges began towing the ferry to a transport vessel that will take it to a port for inspection. Most of the victims of the sinking were high school students on a trip.

    Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been released after six years in custody. Mubarak, now 88, had been tried on charges of ordering the killing of protesters during the Arab Spring revolt in 2011. Earlier this month, Egypt’s top appeals court cleared him. The former leader held power for 30 years before being overthrown.

    Back in this country, the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian contacts with Trump campaign advisers erupted into fresh acrimony today. Republican Chair Devin Nunes called off a public hearing next Tuesday with former intelligence agency leaders. Instead, he said the panel needs to hear again from leaders of the FBI and National Security Agency in a closed session.

    REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-Calif.: Until we can get them in a closed session, it’s not going to be worth it having the open session. So all members have a chance to interview them and hold a hearing in the closed session.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Then the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, quickly challenged the decision and disputed the chairman’s explanation.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: There must have been a very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing. It’s hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly canceled. Clearly, it had to do with events of this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier this week, Nunes drew heat for informing the president that some Trump transition communications were intercepted, without first telling committee Democrats. Today, Nunes also announced that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will appear voluntarily before the committee. We will get back to all of this a little later in the program.

    It’s being reported that President Trump will continue to get financial reports on his business empire. “Forbes” magazine quotes the president’s son Eric as saying that he will likely provide quarterly updates. Before taking office, the president announced that he would separate himself from his companies to avoid any conflicts of interest.

    A North Carolina man who fired an assault-style rifle inside a Washington pizzeria pleaded guilty today to weapons charges. Edgar Welch told police that he drove from North Carolina last December to investigate a bogus online conspiracy theory. It claimed that the pizza shop, named Comet Ping Pong, was home to a child sex ring involving Hillary Clinton.

    And Wall Street closed out its worst week since the election. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 60 points today to close at 20596. The Nasdaq rose 11 points, while The S&P 500 slipped about two. For the week, all three indexes were down 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Keystone XL pipeline gets building permit from State Department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republican effort to replace Obamacare, the health care law, lies in ruins tonight.

    At the 11th hour today, House GOP leaders gave up trying to hold a vote on their bill.

    Our Lisa Desjardins has been at the Capitol all day. She begins our coverage.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us.

    LISA DESJARDINS: After a dramatic week of will they or won’t they, Republicans’ selected won’t, pulling their sweeping health care bill shortly before a scheduled vote, when it clearly was short of the support it needed.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains. And, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today. We came really close today, but we came up short.

    Doing big things is hard. All of us, all of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The House speaker then acknowledged the resulting reality.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Obamacare is the law of the land. It’s going to remain the law of the land until it’s replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law. And so, yes, we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much. We were very close, very, very tight margins.

    LISA DESJARDINS: President Trump pointed to a lack of Democratic votes and said he’s open to discussing another bill. But, for now, health care will stay as it is.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have been saying for the last year-and-a-half that the best thing we can do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode, and it is exploding right now.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This after a wild 24 hours of promises and pressure, with Vice President Pence meeting with the conservative Freedom Caucus today, and the White House standing by an ultimatum President Trump issued last night, that, if the bill failed, he wouldn’t return to the issue.

    Press Secretary Sean Spicer today:

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: I know that the president’s made it clear that this is the effort, this was the train that’s leaving the station, and that he expects everyone — that this is our opportunity.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans also dangled some carrots, adding new changes last night to win votes. For moderates, they revived a Medicare tax on the wealthy, using the proceeds to help states increase health coverage, and for conservatives, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of basic, essential benefits, things like E.R. visits, prescriptions and preventative care.

    Removing the essential benefits did sway some members.

    Joe Barton of Texas:

    REP. JOE BARTON, R-Texas: That is a big win for conservative values, so I am now a yes vote.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Others refused to budge, including Barton’s fellow Texan Louie Gohmert.

    REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, R-Texas: The president shouldn’t give any more energy. This was up to us. It wasn’t up to him. And I’m grateful that he spent as much effort trying as hard as he did.

    LISA DESJARDINS: More no’s came from the ranks of moderates. The chair of House appropriations, New Jersey’s Rodney Frelinghuysen, cited cuts to Medicaid funding.

    At the White House, President Trump said this morning he has no regrets.

    QUESTION: Did you rush it, do you think?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will see what happens.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Mr. Trump also said he had full faith in Speaker Ryan moving forward.

    But, by early afternoon, Ryan was at the White House, delivering the grim news on the bill’s prospects. Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to the Republicans’ disunity.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI,  D-Calif., House Minority Leader: I think their mistake really was they were so focused on embarrassing the Affordable Care Act, rather than trying to improve it.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Three months into their control of government, Republicans have a central political and policy platform to rebuild.

    And this is a seismic moment. Speaker Ryan says, nonetheless, he’s moving to the next big mountain to climb, tax reform, even though accomplishing tax reform will now be harder, Judy, because they don’t have the savings that he was hoping for from health care reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, a lot of finger-pointing going on. What is your reading from talking to all the people you have talked to about why they couldn’t get this done?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, I want to try and set aside all the blame game — there is a lot of that — and focus on three things.

    One, I just talked to Chairman Greg Walden, who was one of the co-authors of this bill. He said he felt that the goalposts kept moving from conservatives and moderates, that they would give them one thing, and then they would ask for more. That’s one factor.

    Another, Republicans have a very large conference, but with that also comes large differences in policy, and they couldn’t bridge those. The third, Judy, the timeline, I think, was a very big factor. The Republicans shot for the moon here trying to pass a massive bill in just three weeks. That didn’t leave any breathing room for very serious concerns. And that’s why I think we saw this bill fail.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, what are Republicans saying about what they think the implications are for their party, for them?

    LISA DESJARDINS: They’re worried about 2018.

    Democrats would need a sweep to retake the House, but for the first time, I had two different Republican members tell me today they’re worried that that sweep is possible. And it’s not just about their individual elections, Judy, but this takes the kind of air out, all the energy out from conservative causes across the board.

    They have been campaigning on this up and down, nonprofits, politicians, for seven years, and they’re just not sure where the energy now is going to come from for all of these groups that have been pushing for conservative causes for years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, what about Speaker Ryan himself? How is he affected by this?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I actually think Speaker Ryan is doing OK.

    Our Julie Percha, producer up here, spoke to several members of the Freedom Caucus who had nothing but good things to say about Speaker Ryan. Also, in his benefit, Judy, it doesn’t look like anyone else wants his job right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hmm. That’s interesting. All right.

    Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, we thank you.

    And now a view from the White House today.

    Reporter Robert Costa of The Washington Post interviewed the president as the bill was being pulled from consideration.

    And Robert joins me now in the studio.

    Robert, the president called your cell phone. What did he say?

    ROBERT COSTA, The Washington Post: Yes. He did. I was sitting over here in Arlington. It was a blocked number.

    And he got right to the point. He said, “Bob, I’m pulling the bill.”

    And he had just met with House Speaker Ryan. And he said the votes weren’t there.

    My whip count had about three dozen Republicans who were probably not going to back the measure, but he said it was closer, about five to 12 votes away. And he said he’s ready to move on. He’s going to not hold the bill for a few days. He’s going to wait, in his words, to let it explode.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He said in his remarks to the group of reporters, the so-called pool there in the Oval Office, he said that it’s going to be — the next move is up to the Democrats.

    Is that your sense of what they’re looking for, or are they just shoving it to the side now?

    ROBERT COSTA: He seems to be open to a bipartisan deal.

    We will see if that actually emerges. But I said, you’re kind of a non-ideological president, even though you’re a Republican. Maybe you’re more natural down the road doing something with the Democrats. He said, a lot of people may say that, and he said it with a chuckle.

    But whether the Democrats would be willing to work with the president, we will have to see. I thought it was striking, though. He was pretty even-tempered. And he finished the conversation. I said, you have been in the presidency for 60 days. Have you learned anything? What’s the lesson here?

    He said, “Just another day in paradise.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Robert, he didn’t give any sense of regret or a sense that something he did or his party did had gone wrong?

    ROBERT COSTA: Not a bit of regret.

    Defiance was the tone, even-tempered, but defiant. He said, if the premiums rise, in his words, by 100 percent or 70 percent or 200 percent, just publish the story at The Post. He said he’s going to blame the Democrats.

    It was very partisan, very political. I also said, did you blame the speaker? You’re the newcomer to Washington, Mr. President. Do you blame the House speaker at all, as some of your allies are behind the scenes?

    And he said three times, “I don’t blame Paul.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So revealing, Robert Costa.

    And you’re going to be hosting “Washington Week” a little later tonight on PBS.

    ROBERT COSTA: Eight o’clock.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will be watching.

    ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    The post Republican repeal effort in ruins, ‘we’re going to be living with Obamacare’ for foreseeable future appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump talks to journalists at the Oval Office of the White House after the AHCA health care bill was pulled before a vote in Washington.

    President Donald Trump talks to journalists at the Oval Office of the White House after the AHCA health care bill was pulled before a vote in Washington. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Former President Barack Obama’s health care law will remain in effect “for the foreseeable future,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) said Friday after pulling a vote on the House Republican’s health care bill, acknowledging a stinging defeat for a party that has campaigned on repealing the law for the better part of a decade.

    The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, “is the law of the land,” Ryan said at a brief press conference after announcing the vote was canceled. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

    “This is a setback, no two ways about it,” Ryan said.

    The failed American Health Care Act represented a major setback not just for Ryan and House Republicans but also for President Donald Trump.

    Mr. Trump staked a lot of his political capital on repealing the Affordable Care Act, calling House Republicans in recent days and meeting with them in person at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Rolling back the law was one of Trump’s top campaign promises in the run-up to last year’s election.

    In a highly unusual move, Mr. Trump called two reporters directly, Bob Costa of the Washington Post and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, and pinned blame for the bill’s failure on House Democrats.

    Costa spoke to Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour and described how the president called his cell phone and broke the news. “He got right to the point. He said ‘Bob, I’m killing the bill,’” Costa explained.

    Trump also told Costa that he did not blame Ryan for the bill’s failure, and was open to cutting a deal with Democrats on a health care bill in the future.

    Haberman reported that Trump said he was happy to have the health care debate in his rearview mirror. “‘It’s enough already,’ he said of the negotiations,” she reported on Twitter.

    “I’m not going to speak badly about anybody in the party,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after Ryan’s statement. “I’m not betrayed. They’re friends of mine. I’m disappointed.”

    “I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode.”

    “I want to have a great health care bill and plan. And we will,” he said later. “I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode.”

    A majority of House Republicans backed the bill, which proposed eliminating many of the core provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But most members of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of roughly three-dozen conservatives — refused to go along with the bill, arguing that it did not go far enough in repealing Obama’s health care reform.

    Without their support, Ryan did not have enough votes to pass the bill in the House. The House Democratic conference was united in opposing the bill.

    “Some members of that caucus were voting with us, but not enough,” Ryan said, referring to the Freedom Caucus, though he did not name it directly. Ryan did not give a final whip count. But he said the holdout “no” votes from hard-right conservatives were “sufficient” to sink the bill.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference after Republicans pulled  the American Health Care Act bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act act known as Obamacare, prior to a vote at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX32LZ6

    House Speaker Paul Ryan holds a news conference after Republicans pulled their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on March 24, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    Ryan went to the White House to meet with Trump around noon and advised him to cancel a vote on the bill, according to a senior administration official, but the president said he wanted to go forward with a vote.

    Around 3 p.m., Ryan called the president and urged him again to call off the vote, the official said. The president relented, against the advice of his advisers, the official said.

    Ryan met with the House Republican conference briefly before addressing reporters in a press briefing room at the Capitol. He said the caucus was “let down” and “disappointed” by the final outcome of a drama that has gripped Washington for nearly three weeks.

    “I wish we had the kind of consensus we needed,” Ryan said.

    House Republicans introduced their health care overhaul Mar. 6. Soon after, the Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating that it would reduce spending by $337 billion over the next decade but would lead to 24 million Americans losing their health insurance.

    “I wish we had the kind of consensus we needed.”

    The CBO score raised a red flag for moderate House and Senate Republicans, causing some to call on House GOP leaders to make changes or scrap the bill and start over. At the same time, Ryan and Trump faced competing pressure from conservative House Republicans who called the bill “Obamacare lite.”

    House GOP leaders made changes to the bill to appease the Freedom Caucus, leading to a frenzied and ultimately unsuccessful round of last-minute negotiations this week to get the bill over the finish line.

    With the bill officially dead, the finger pointing amongst Republicans began almost immediately. But Ryan refused to assign blame. He also praised Trump and his top advisers for jumping into the legislative fray.

    “The president gave his all in this effort,” Ryan said. “He’s really been fantastic.”

    In a statement Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the efforts of the Speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and replace it. I share their disappointment that this effort came up short.”

    The bill’s failure could impact the GOP and Trump White House’s ability to enact its agenda going forward, as Trump indicated he would now turn his focus to tax reform. But Ryan sought to downplay the potential implications, saying plans for a tax overhaul, infrastructure bill, and efforts to strengthen the military and border security would not be affected.

    Still, he acknowledged that it raised new challenges, at least in the area of tax reform, another longtime Republican goal.

    “Yes, this does make tax reform difficult but it does not make it impossible,” Ryan said. He added, “I don’t think this is prologue for other future things.”

    NewsHour correspondent John Yang contributed reporting.

    The post Trump and Ryan scramble to pick up the pieces after Obamacare repeal fails appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference after Republicans pulled the American Health Care Act bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act act known as Obamacare, prior to a vote at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX32LZ6

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference Mar. 24 after Republicans pulled their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    In the course of 24 hours, the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act went from poised for approval, to on hold, to totally dead.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled a vote on the legislation Friday after it became clear he could not get enough votes, thanks to divisions within his own party — a charge led by the House Freedom Caucus — and the Democratic conference’s refusal to support the measure.

    Here’s a look at what happened in the 24 hours before the bill was killed.

    Thursday afternoon: The House vote is delayed

    On Thursday morning — the seventh anniversary of the day Obamacare was signed into law — members of the House Freedom Caucus went to the White House to negotiate with Trump.

    The idea was to lay out final compromises that could win the votes of the group’s roughly three dozen conservatives. But members left that meeting unsatisfied, NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins reported, without any promises to carry the bill forward.

    Ryan continued to push back a press conference he had scheduled earlier in the day. Meanwhile, Democrats — led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — charged ahead with their criticism of the bill, though as Desjardins reported, she offered GOP leaders something of a compromise:

    “If this bill were to fail today, rookie day, I would [be] ready to negotiate with them on how we can go forward, incorporating some of their ideas. This is a bad day for them. It’s bad if they win and it’s bad if they lose,” Pelosi said.

    Thursday night: It’s back on

    The White House told Republican leadership that it was done negotiating, prompting Ryan to say he would move forward with the vote after all.

    Read more: Here’s why the vote on the Republican health care bill was delayed

    “‘Negotiations are over, we’d like to vote tomorrow and let’s get this done for the American people.’ That was it,” Rep. Duncan Hunter of California told the Associated Press as he left the closed-door meeting.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Friday morning: Roll calls and changes

    The House pressed ahead with a morning roll call, voting largely along party lines to make some changes to the bill, including the elimination of some Obamacare coverage requirements and stronger Medicaid benefits.

    For most of the morning, it was unclear whether the bill had enough votes to move forward.

    At an early afternoon press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said a vote was planned for later that afternoon.

    “It’s up to members of Congress now to decide if they want to be part of the effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act,” Spicer told reporters at a news briefing. “The president and his team have committed everything they can to make this thing happen.”

    Friday afternoon: It unravels

    Around noon, Speaker Ryan went to the White House and urged President Trump to cancel a vote because he did not have the votes to pass it, according to a senior administration official. Trump told Ryan that he wanted to proceed with the vote.

    But about three hours later, Ryan called the president to urge him to reconsider and pull the vote, the administration official said. Trump agreed, the official said, overruling advisers who pressed for a final vote.

    At approximately 3:30 p.m., the president called Washington Post reported Robert Costa, who live-tweeted the conversation. “We just pulled it,” Trump said. Trump also told Costa that he didn’t blame Ryan, and was open to cutting a deal with Democrats on a health care bill in the future.

    READ MORE: Trump and Ryan scramble to pick up the pieces after Obamacare repeal fails

    Shortly after 4 p.m., Ryan appeared before reporters to officially announce that the vote had been canceled. “This is a setback, no two ways about it,” Ryan said.

    Ryan said that Republicans would press on with the rest of their agenda, including efforts to overhaul the tax code, rebuild the military and pass a major infrastructure spending bill.

    Soon after, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell weighed in. “Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the efforts of the Speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and replace it. I share their disappointment that this effort came up short,” McConnell said in a statement.

    Later that afternoon, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders called the failure of the American Health Care Act a victory for the American people.

    “The majority of members saw how inhumane and egregious this [health care bill] would be,” Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn said in a news conference.

    House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said voters in last year’s election sent both Democrats and Republicans to the Capitol to make sure they had access to health care.

    “We will not abandon that responsibility … and we trust that our Republican colleagues will not either,” Hoyer said.

    After a Medal of Honor ceremony in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters he was disappointed the bill didn’t come to a vote, but he thought the next version of the bill — coming soon, he said — would be even better.

    “I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after Ryan’s statement.

    “I want to have a great health care bill and plan. And we will,” he added.

    Digital politics editor Daniel Bush and correspondent John Yang contributed reporting.

    The post The last 24 hours: a timeline of the Republican health care bill collapse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Speaker Paul Ryan

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives at his news conference after the House Republican meeting on Capitol Hill in D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans’ failure to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law deals a serious blow to another big part of President Donald Trump’s agenda: tax reform.

    Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., say they will soon turn their attention to the first major re-write of the tax code in more than 30 years. But they will have to do it without the momentum of victory on health care.

    Just as important, the loss on health care will deprive Republicans of $1 trillion in tax cuts.

    The GOP health plan would have repealed nearly $1 trillion in taxes enacted under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The bill coupled the tax cuts with spending cuts for Medicaid, so it wouldn’t add to the budget deficit.

    Without the spending cuts, it will be much harder for Republicans to cut taxes without adding to the federal government’s red ink.

    “Yes this does make tax reform more difficult,” said Ryan. “But it does not in any way make it impossible.”

    “That just means the Obamacare taxes stay with Obamacare. We’re going to go fix the rest of the tax code,” he added.

    House Republicans couldn’t round up enough votes Friday to repeal and replace a law they despise, raising questions about their ability to tackle other tough issues.

    “Doing big things is hard,” Ryan conceded as he vowed to press on.

    Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, acknowledged that Friday’s turn of events made him doubtful about the Republicans’ ability to tackle major legislation.

    “This was my first big vote and our first big initiative in the line of things to come like tax reform,” said the freshman. “I think this would have given us tremendous momentum and I think this hurts that momentum.”

    [Watch Video]

    Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said, “You always build on your last accomplishment.”

    Nevertheless, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday the administration plans to turn quickly to tax reform with the goal of getting an overhaul approved by Congress by August.

    “Health care is a very complicated issue,” Mnuchin said. “In a way, tax reform is a lot simpler.”

    Don’t tell that to House Republicans who have been struggling with the issue for years.

    The general goal for Republicans is to lower income tax rates for individuals and corporations, and make up the lost revenue by reducing exemptions, deductions and credits.

    Overhauling the tax code is hard because every tax break has a constituency. And the biggest tax breaks are among the most popular.

    READ NEXT: Mnuchin says goal is to pass tax reform by August

    For example, nearly 34 million families claimed the mortgage interest deduction in 2016, reducing their tax bills by $65 billion.

    Also, more than 43 million families deducted their state and local income, sales and personal property taxes from their federal taxable income last year. The deduction reduced their federal tax bills by nearly $70 billion.

    Mnuchin said he had been overseeing work on the administration’s tax bill for the past two months. He said it would be introduced soon.

    Mnuchin said the White House plan would cut individual and corporate tax rates, though he didn’t offer specifics.

    House Republicans have released a blueprint that outlines their goals for a tax overhaul. It would lower the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, and reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three.

    The House plan retains the mortgage interest deduction but repeals the deduction for state and local taxes.

    On the corporate side, the plan would repeal the 35 percent corporate income tax and replace it with a 20 percent tax on imports and domestically produced goods and services that are consumed in the U.S.

    Exports would be exempt from the new tax, called a border adjustment tax.

    The new tax has drawn opposition from Republicans in the Senate. Mnuchin would not reveal whether the administration will include the border adjustment tax in the White House proposal. He was speaking at a public interview event with the news site Axios.

    Republicans often complained that they couldn’t do a tax overhaul when Obama was president. Now, Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they see a great opportunity.

    They plan to use a complicated Senate rule that would prevent Democrats from blocking the bill. But there’s a catch: Under the rule, the package cannot add to long-term budget deficits.

    That means every tax cut has to be offset by a similar tax increase or a spending cut. That’s why the loss on health care was so damaging to the effort to overhaul taxes.

    Ryan made this case to fellow House Republicans in his failed effort to gain support for the health plan.

    “That was part of the calculation of why we had to take care of health care first,” said Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.

    Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.

    The post Failure on health bill also hurts prospects for tax overhaul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    syria

    TOPSHOT – Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, try to extinguish fire reportedly caused by air strikes in the northwestern city of Idlib on March 24, 2017.
    At least 16 people were killed overnight in air strikes on a prison in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwest Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said in a report on March 25, 2017, adding that the dead included prisoners and prison guards without specifying an immediate breakdown of the toll. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

    BEIRUT — Warplanes struck rebel-held parts of Syria Saturday killing and wounding scores of people amid clashes on multiple fronts between government forces and insurgent groups in some of the worst violence to hit the country in weeks, opposition activists said Saturday.

    The airstrikes, of which some activists said included Russian air raids, concentrated on the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, the central province of Hama and suburbs of the capital Damascus that have come under attack by insurgent groups over the past week.

    One of the airstrikes hit a main street in the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyeh killing at least 16 people and wounded more than 50, activists said. The airstrikes caused wide destruction in the area.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes killed 16, including eight women and children, and wounded more than 50. The Local Coordination said 18 were killed and dozens were wounded.

    [Watch Video]

    Both groups said some people are still missing, and that the death toll could rise.

    “They have been hitting Hamouriyeh for days but today they struck an area packed with civilians,” said Awis al-Shami of The Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, via text message.

    The airstrikes come as insurgent groups have been on the offensive in Damascus and the central province of Hama for the past days. Government forces and their allies launched a counteroffensive capturing some of the areas they lost in Damascus and Hama.

    Opposition activists also reported airstrikes in Idlib province hitting several towns and villages as well as the provincial capital the carries the same name.

    The Observatory said a Friday night attack struck a prison run by militants, killing at least 16 people including prisoners and prison staff in Idlib city. It added that women were among the dead as well.

    The monitoring group, which has a network of activists around the country, said some people were killed by gunfire as prison guards chased detainees who tried to flee after the attack.

    The Local Coordination Committees said five air raids struck the city without giving further details.

    Idlib is a stronghold of Syrian insurgent groups and is regularly targeted by Syrian and Russian warplanes.

    The post Airstrike on rebel-held parts of Syria kill and wound dozens appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators take part in a Unite for Europe march, as they head towards Parliament Square, in central London

    Demonstrators take part in a Unite for Europe march, as they head towards Parliament Square, in central London, Britain March 25, 2017. Photo by Paul Hackett/Reuters

    LONDON — Thousands of demonstrators are gathering under sunny skies in central London to protest plans for Britain to withdraw from the European Union.

    The Unite for Europe march included many carrying EU flags just days before Britain is expected to begin its formal divorce from the EU.

    Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 Wednesday, setting the process in motion. Negotiations are expected to take at least two years.

    Demonstrators take part in a Unite for Europe march, as they head towards Parliament Square, in central London

    Demonstrators take part in a Unite for Europe march, as they head towards Parliament Square, in central London, Britain March 25, 2017. Photo by Paul Hackett/Reuters

    The substantial march follows by three days an attack on Parliament. Organizers considered delaying the march but decided to go ahead.

    Organizers said in a statement that “we will not be intimidated. We will stand in unity and solidarity.”

    Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU.

    This report was written by the Associated Press.

    The post Thousands in London take to streets to protest Brexit plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    medical debt Patient sitting on hospital bed

    Mississippi has one of the country’s highest rates of uninsured and underinsured adults. File photo by Portra Images via Getty

    Americans are no strangers to medical debt, and the burden is most severe in Mississippi, where nearly 40 percent of adults under age 65 owe hospitals or doctors, according to the Urban Institute. But the men and women carrying that debt are not always poor — they’re increasingly middle class.

    And their inability, or refusal, to pay their bills is straining hospital budgets and threatening the availability of care.

    “You’d be surprised when you look through our bad debt rolls,” said Alvin Hoover, CEO of King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, Miss. “Some drive a 2002 pickup truck, and some drive a 2016 pickup truck. Those are the ones that get under your skin — where you went to buy a 2016 truck when you still owe the hospital $4,000.”

    Mississippi, where the median household income hovers near $40,000, has one of the nation’s highest rates of uninsured and underinsured adults. As a result, the state has one of the highest percentage of adults who avoid doctors due to potential costs, said Therese Hanna, executive director at the Center for Mississippi Health Policy.

    At the same time, medical debt remains the leading cause of bankruptcies, according to Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program.

    Thomas Ash, a bankruptcy lawyer based in Jackson, said more than half his clients carry medical debt. He often sees this kind of debt accumulate because residents have purchased catastrophic insurance plans but have failed to set aside savings to cover high deductibles or expenses not covered by the policy.

    “If they couldn’t pay the deductible,” said Mississippi Hospital Association CEO and President Tim Moore, “there’s a high probability they’re not going to pay the hospital.”

    Urban Institute graphic

    Graphic by the Urban Institute via STAT

    Collection agencies are most likely to go after past-due medical bills first, according to a recent study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Over the past five years, James Henley Jr., a bankruptcy trustee in Jackson, said he has seen a sharp increase in the number of middle-class residents with bankruptcy claims after “extending their lines of credit, maxing out credit cards, [robbing] Peter to pay Paul.”

    Henley said the people he works with have to make hard choices, and that new car may not signify that they’re thumbing their nose at their debt.

    “You have medical debt, a mortgage, and utilities — and those costs are rising,” Henley said. “Your 2005 pickup truck is getting old. Your maintenance costs are going up. You can pay those, or you can buy a new car to ensure you show up to work.”

    It wasn’t that long ago that Cheryl Trosclair and her husband brought home a combined annual income of over $100,000. Then a few years ago, Trosclair found herself unable to work in the wake of fibromyalgia, kidney disease, and clogged arteries. After that, her husband was laid off from his supervising job on an offshore oil rig. They lost medical coverage. Dealing with chronic health issues, she racked up thousands of dollars in medical debt.

    They eventually moved to tiny Silver Creek, Miss., where her husband’s family lives, to figure out their next step. They’re living off proceeds from property they once owned in Louisiana. Meanwhile, Trosclair is awaiting word about her disability claim. For now, she has a high-deductible plan purchased through the state’s insurance exchange. In short, times have stayed tough.

    “I just go to the doctor in cases of an emergency,” Trosclair said. “I don’t like to owe anybody.”

    READ NEXT: Drug shortages in emergency rooms rising

    A few months ago, Trosclair’s right knee gave out, and she fell, face-first, into a fire at her friend’s house. She spent four hours trying to avoid a hospital visit. When the pain from burns to her face grew intolerable, she went to King’s Daughters’s emergency department.

    Trosclair said she received excellent care. But it cost $1,500.

    After much uncertainty, King’s Daughters wrote off the bill as charity care. Since then, Trosclair has experienced pain from her rheumatoid arthritis and a separate episode of chest pains. Her husband asked if she wanted to go to the doctor. But she worries about increasing her medical debt beyond the thousands of dollars she still owes from back in Louisiana.

    “Let’s just wait,” she told her husband.

    Hoover has plenty of patients like Trosclair at King’s Daughters. He also has people who haven’t paid five-figure bills despite making more than $70,000 a year. Ultimately, he knows hospitals suffer when millions of dollars in bills go unpaid — no matter if that’s the result of bad luck or bad financial decisions.

    Delta Regional Medical Center, a 325-bed hospital in Greenville, struggled to stay in the black in 2016. CEO Scott Christensen said the hospital was left in a tenuous position when it posted only a net profit of $1.5 million even though it collected $125 million last year. The tight margin, he said, was largely due to $31 million that went uncollected. Half of that amount is from bills that middle-class patients have yet to pay.

    “I don’t want to judge their life choices, but in an age of expediency, there’s no savings for a serious health care bill a year from now,” said Christensen.

    READ NEXT: Americans who confronted ‘surprise’ medical bills share their stories

    Christensen said he considers hospitals to be the bedrock of Mississippi’s communities. So when people don’t pay, he said, entire communities suffer. Henley pointed to recent layoffs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a hospital that has struggled to collect bad debt, as one such example. A UMMC spokesperson declined to make hospital officials available for this story.

    Over the past five years, Hoover has instructed King’s Daughters staffers to collect payments up front from patients who come in for non-emergency treatment. They have also tried to divert patients away from the emergency room unless they absolutely need critical care. And they’ve tried to negotiate payment plans with patients for a fraction of their outstanding debt.

    The strategy has worked to a degree — the hospital cut its bad debt nearly in half, from $22.5 million in fiscal year 2012 to $12.6 million in fiscal year 2016, adding close to $10 million to its profit margin.

    Elsewhere in Mississippi, there are plenty of opinions from experts and advocates on how to reduce past-due medical debt: expand Medicaid, create jobs, let providers become insurers. But right now, with no clear solution, hospitals are likely to remain mired in debt, just like their patients.

    “We’re just trying to survive,” Christensen said.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on March 24, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post In the state with the highest medical debt, it’s the middle class who carries the burden appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    DENVER — Colorado is considering an unusual strategy to protect its nascent marijuana industry from a potential federal crackdown, even at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax collections.

    A bill pending in the Legislature would allow pot growers and retailers to reclassify their recreational pot as medical pot if a change in federal law or enforcement occurs.

    It’s the boldest attempt yet by a U.S. marijuana state to avoid federal intervention in its weed market.

    The bill would allow Colorado’s 500 or so licensed recreational pot growers to instantly reclassify their weed. A switch would cost the state more than $100 million a year because Colorado taxes medical pot much more lightly than recreational weed — 2.9 percent versus 17.9 percent.

    The measure says licensed growers could immediately become medical licensees “based on a business need due to a change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy.” The change wouldn’t take recreational marijuana off the books, but it wouldn’t entirely safeguard it either. What it could do is help growers protect their inventory in case federal authorities start seizing recreational pot.

    The provision is getting a lot of attention in the marijuana industry following recent comments from members of President Donald Trump’s administration. White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said there’s a “big difference” between medical and recreational pot.

    Sponsors of the bill call it a possible exit strategy for the new pot industry. It’s hard to say how many businesses would be affected, or if medical pot would flood the market, because some businesses hold licenses to both grow and sell marijuana in Colorado.

    The state had about 827,000 marijuana plants growing in the retail system in June, the latest available data. More than half were for the recreational market.

    “If there is a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments,” said Sen. Tim Neville, a suburban Denver Republican who sponsored the bill.

    If federal authorities start seizing recreational pot, Colorado’s recreational marijuana entrepreneurs “need to be able to convert that product into the medical side so they can sell it,” Neville said.

    His bill passed a committee in the Republican Senate 4-1 last week.

    But it’s unclear whether the measure could pass the full Colorado Senate or the Democratic House. Skeptics of the proposal doubt the classification change would do much more than cost Colorado tax money.

    “It’s a big deal for our taxation system because this money has been coming in and has been set aside for this, that and the other,” said Sen. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat who voted against the bill.

    Schools would be the first casualty of a tax change. Colorado sends $40 million a year to a school-construction fund from excise taxes on recreational pot. It’s a tax that doesn’t exist for medical pot.

    Other items funded by recreational pot in Colorado include training for police in identifying stoned drivers, a public-education campaign aimed at reducing teen marijuana use, and an array of medical studies on marijuana’s effectiveness treating ailments such as seizures or post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The proposal comes amid mixed signals from the federal government on how the Trump administration plans to treat states that aren’t enforcing federal drug law.

    Spicer said the president understands the pain and suffering many people, especially those with terminal diseases, endure “and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.”

    But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has voiced doubts about pot’s medical value.

    “Medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” Sessions said in a speech to law enforcement agencies in Richmond, Virginia.

    Marijuana activists say giving the industry an option to keep their inventory legal is a valuable idea for recreational pot states. They point out that a change in federal policy wouldn’t make the drug magically disappear from the eight states that allow recreational use, along with Washington, D.C.

    “It would be very harmful to the state if it reverts back entirely to an underground market,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization activist group.

    If the bill becomes law, Colorado would be the first pot state to take action to protect producers from a federal drug crackdown, marijuana analysts said.

    A bill pending in the Oregon Legislature aims to shield the names and other personal information of pot buyers by making it illegal for shops to keep an internal log of customers’ personal data, a practice that is already banned or discouraged in Colorado, Alaska and Washington state.

    Other states such as California are considering proposals that would bar local and state law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities on investigations into cannabis operations that are legal in their jurisdictions.

    Meanwhile, members of Congress from some pot states have talked about trying to block federal intervention in marijuana states. Congress could reclassify marijuana so medical use is allowed, or it could try to block federal enforcement of marijuana prohibition through the federal budget.

    But the proposed Colorado change may be a longshot effort.

    Medical and recreational pot are the same product. The only difference between them is how they are used, and the U.S. Controlled Substances Act says marijuana has no valid medical use. Federal health regulators have rejected repeated attempts to carve out a legal place for marijuana use by sick people.

    Sponsors concede there are no promises that reclassifying all that pot as medicine would stop a federal crackdown.

    But they say Colorado shouldn’t sit idly by and wait to see if the Trump administration starts enforcing federal drug law by attacking businesses that are legal under state law.

    “This bill allows the industry to know there is something after tomorrow, whatever tomorrow may bring,” Neville said.

    Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman in Washington and Kristena Hansen in Salem, Oregon, contributed to this report.

    The post Colorado weighs strategy for guarding against marijuana crackdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota

    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota Nov. 14, 2014. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    TORONTO — Canada’s natural resource minister said Saturday his government is happy the Keystone XL pipeline has finally been approved by the White House, but he noted that obstacles remain and said Canada remains determined to diversify its oil exports beyond the United States.

    The minister, Jim Carr, told The Associated Press that President Donald Trump’s approval of the pipeline is “good news.” But he said there are other important projects like the recently approved TransMountain pipeline that will allow for exports to Asia. Ninety-eight percent of Canada’s oil exports now go to the U.S.

    “We want to ensure we have access to Asian markets,” Carr said in a telephone interview. “We want to ensure we have more than one customer, as much as we love Americans.”

    Canada needs infrastructure to export its growing oil sands production. Alberta has the third-largest oil reserves in the world and is America’s largest supplier of foreign oil.

    READ NEXT: Trump approves Keystone XL, calling it ‘great day’ for jobs

    Keystone XL would carry more than one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the United States. The pipeline owned by TransCanada received a presidential permit Friday, but Carr said he expects protests and noted it still needs a permit from the state of Nebraska. He’s heard the Nebraska process could take eight months.

    “Canadians aren’t going to go down there and tell state legislators what to do. They have their own process. We’ll respect that,” he said.

    [Watch Video]

    Carr will, however, meet with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Washington on Thursday.

    “The objective is to make the point that the energy economies are integrated,” he said. “So much of the Canadian interest is aligned with the American interest. Keystone XL is a good example of that.”

    The 1,700-mile (2,735-kilometer) pipeline would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The presidential permit comes nearly a decade after Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada applied to build the $8 billion pipeline. Keystone would strengthen U.S. energy security by increasing access to Canada’s “dependable supply of crude oil,” said the State Department.

    The decision follows a long scientific and political fight over the project, which became a proxy battle in the larger fight over global warming.

    Without the pipeline, Carr said the oil would move by the more dangerous method of rail. A 2013 derailment killed 47 people when a runaway oil train from North Dakota jumped the tracks and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

    “The more pipeline capacity there is, the higher proportion of the oil will be moved by a safer method of transport,” Carr said.

    The post Canada determined to diversify despite Keystone XL approval appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SIMONA FOLTYN: In Juba, the Capital of South Sudan, this United Nations camp was supposed to be temporary. But after more than three years of a brutal civil war, people continue to flock here for safety. Today, more than three million people, almost a-third of South Sudan’s population, have been forced from their homes. Half of them have have fled to neighboring countries, like Uganda.

    The rest are internally displaced, like John Janoub. He arrived here with his wife and daughter last year, when fighting spread to their hometown called Yei, in the southern part of the country in a region called Equatoria.

    JOHN JANOUB: When we heard the gunshots, people started running, people are running anyhow. So me, I escaped, I went to the riverside. We were very many in the river. Then, the bullet is passing from up. Even some of the bullets were falling near us.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: The civil war originated in a power struggle over the country’s top post between South Sudan’s first president, Salva Kiir, and his former first vice president Riek Machar. As both men mobilized support along ethnic lines, the conflict pitted Kiir’s tribe, the Dinka, against, Machar’s, the Nuer, turning it into a broader struggle over land and resources, including oil.

    The two leaders signed a peace deal in 2015, but it collapsed nine months ago when fighting resumed in Juba. Machar fled and is now living in exile in South Africa. When President Kiir’s government troops reached Yei, Janoub thought his family would be spared. Like most of his tribe they had remained neutral. But to his horror, Janoub saw government troops set fire to his home.

    JOHN JANOUB: All my family were taken inside, they are seven people in the family, my mother, the father, the sister, and my brothers, and the wife of my brother was there. They close the door, then they started putting the fire. They started burning the house. Then the soldiers, some of them they were deployed at door, in case people inside someone will break the door will come out, they will shoot.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Janoub says seven members of his family and several neighbors died in the fire, and then the soldiers went after him.

    JOHN JANOUB: When I started running, then he was following me, then they started shooting me – pah pah pah. This is the place where I was shot. The bullet came from here, they shoot me from here, then the bullet came out from here.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Janoub managed to escape with the help of friends. For three weeks, they walked through the wilderness until they reached this camp.

    And the people who killed your family — were they soldiers?

    JOHN JANOUB: They were soldiers.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: They were wearing uniforms?

    JOHN JANOUB: They were wearing the uniform, the government uniform.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Why would they do that?

    JOHN JANOUB: They said that all people in Yei, these are the people who are supporters of Riek Machar — so all of them need to be killed. These Equatorial people.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Most of the government soldiers are Dinka, which has fueled perceptions of ethnic cleansing.

    JOHN JANOUB: The government of Kiir is targeting all the communities who are non-Dinkas.
    They are grabbing people’s land, when you talk, they will kill you, they will destroy your home, the whole family. This is what they are doing in the country. When I caught up with a spokesman for the government troops, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, he denied that abuses are happening in a systematic way.

    Santo Dominic: Well, there have been a lot of allegations that the SPLA is attacking civilians, and that is ridiculous, in a sense, that how come that a national army like the SPLA attacks civilians who have no arms, who have nothing to do with rebellion. We are not angels. Within us there are some, you know criminals, but these criminals don’t represent our image as the SPLA, but there are very few elements that might have committed some crimes.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Despite the recent surge in violence, the government says that it’s committed to the peace deal, and it has been urging people to leave this camp. But attacks on civilians have been a hallmark of this conflict, and with ethnic strife on the rise, there’s simply no confidence that it’s safe to go outside.

    The United Nations is warning the surge in violence and ethnic targeting of civilians could spiral into a genocide. David Shearer leads the UN peacekeeping mission here.

    DAVID SHEARER: We certainly have seen communities that have had to either flee from where they are living, houses burned, women raped, people killed in large numbers.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Earlier this month, the UN Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan found most of the atrocities have been committed by government soldiers against civilians thought to be supporting rebel forces.

    “Individuals have been targeted for killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, sexual slavery, and forced marriage.”

    “Interviewees described seeing corpses with their hands tied behind their backs and their mouths taped closed.”

    “The vast majority” of mass rapes “were committed by police or soldiers” and “a staggering” number of women “had been forced to watch someone else being sexually violated.”

    The UN’s 12,000 peacekeepers are supposed to prevent such atrocities. But most of them protect the UN camps. And Shearer says government troops often block access elsewhere.

    DAVID SHEARER: The government doesn’t want us to go into particular areas because there are military operations going on and they believe we will get in the way of their military objectives. It’s not a systematic denial of us going to opposition areas, it’s more of us getting in the way and seeing what’s happening on the ground with regard to military operations that are ongoing.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Flying two hours north of Juba to rebel-held areas, I passed over the town of Wau Shilluk, which government forces attacked in February. It looks like parts of the town were burned to the ground. I landed in the nearby town of Kodok on the West bank of the Nile River. As the cultural and political capital of the Shilluk tribe, this used to be a vibrant town. But much of the population has fled.

    Government forces are stationed just on the other side of the river Nile, which is effectively the front line. Over the past weeks, there has been intense fighting just an hour south of here, and many fear that the town of Kodok could be hit next. The South Sudanese government blames the rebels for provoking the fighting in this region. Rebel commander Major General Peter Otar Laa sees the situation differently.

    MAJOR GENERAL PETER OTAR LAA: It was the government army that came and attacked our positions as well as the civilians at Wau Shilluk.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Otar Laa says rebel forces will continue fighting until opposition leader Riek Machar is allowed back into the country.

    MAJOR GENERAL PETER OTAR LAA: The international community has the ability to make peace either by force, through negotiations or any other means. But if they just sit back like in July when Riek Machar was pushed out, then we don’t expect peace to come.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Tens of thousands of people fled the most recent fighting in Wau Shilluk by walking for days to escape the front lines. They carried whatever they could grab when their villages came under attack. Most have taken refuge in this forest. This woman collapsed. Her mother said she hadn’t eaten for three days.

    Everyone here is visibly exhausted, having slept for weeks out in the open. Alisa Padaw is also coping with the loss of her youngest son, killed when the government shelled Wau Shilluk last month. He was only 12-years-old. She also has two teenage sons who are missing.

    ALISA PADAW: When the shelling hit, the hot soil fell on me and burned me here on my chest. Then immediately our house started burning.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: Since leaving Wau Shilluk, Padaw and her family have survived mostly by eating leaves. They left all their harvest behind when they fled for their lives.

    ALISA PADAW: We came with empty hands, we left all our things there. When we go to sleep, we just pray to God that he will assist. When the day comes, we look for the leaves and the fruits from the trees.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: The UN says a-hundred-thousand people are at immediate risk of starving to death due to a man-made famine…the civil war having prevented farmers from planting and harvesting for three years. Aid from the UN’s World Food Program has started trickling in. But the UN says the government has prevented its delivery to civilians in rebel-controlled areas.

    While they wait for aid, Padaw and her fellow villagers find ways to keep going. During the attack, her neighbor, Youssuf, ran and grabbed one thing he thought necessary to survive.

    YOUSSUF JOHN: I’m making this fishing net, so when the rainy seasons comes, I can fish here. That way I can get something to eat for myself and even these children here.

    SIMONA FOLTYN: But it will be weeks until the rains come. In an attempt to feed themselves, the displaced try to sell their other belongings. Even that would earn them enough to buy only a few days worth of food. The UN is now warning that five-and-half million people — half the population of South Sudan — are at risk of severe food insecurity this year.

    The post South Sudan faces famine, potential genocide in civil war appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Displaced Iraqis flee their homes as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul

    Displaced Iraqis flee their homes as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq March 25, 2017. Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters

    BAGHDAD — An airstrike targeting Islamic State militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul that witnesses say killed at least 100 people was in fact launched by the U.S. military, American officials said Saturday.

    U.S. officials did not confirm the reports of civilian casualties but opened an investigation. In the days following the March 17 airstrike, U.S. officials had said they were unsure whether American forces were behind the attack.

    The statement issued by the U.S.-led coalition said the airstrike had been requested by Iraqi security forces to target IS fighters and equipment “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.” U.S.-backed government troops were fighting IS forces in that area of western Mosul, the statement said.

    The coalition said it takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment had been opened to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.

    “Our goal has always been for zero civilian casualties, but the coalition will not abandon our commitment to our Iraqi partners because of ISIS’s inhuman tactics terrorizing civilians, using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighborhoods,” the coalition said.

    Altaf Musani, representative of the World Health Organization in Iraq, told The Associated Press in the Jordanian capital of Amman that the organization’s priority was quick treatment for those wounded.

    “It is our understanding that there was an incident and we have worked with the local health actors and they have confirmed more than 100 are dead,” Musani said.

    [Watch Video]

    Musani said that since the operations in Mosul began in October, there have been at least 5,300 people referred to hospitals in and around the city. He added that since the attack on western Mosul began last month, “we have managed to capture more than 1,300” cases.

    “When you take a better look at what those numbers mean, what is worrying for the WHO and aid actors is that roughly 30 percent of the total numbers are women,” he said. “Roughly 30 percent of that large number are children under 15, and that is deeply concerning because of the capacities needed to treat those wounded coming out of the front lines.”

    President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to dramatically ramp up the assault on Islamic State militants and has vowed to eradicate it.

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met in recent days with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Ababi and foreign ministers from the coalition partners at the State Department to explore new ideas to expand the fight against IS in Mosul.

    Earlier Saturday, senior Sunni Muslim politicians expressed concern over reports of airstrikes that allegedly killed the civilians. Residents reported two airstrikes hitting a residential area on March 13 and 17. The Iraqi Defense Ministry has provided no immediate comment.

    In tweets published on his official account, parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri said “we realize the huge responsibility the liberating forces shoulder” and call on them to “spare no effort to save the civilians.”

    In a statement issued on his website, Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi, himself from Mosul, described the incident as a “humanitarian catastrophe,” blaming the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and excessive use of force by militarized Federal Police forces. Al-Nujaifi put the number of civilians killed at “hundreds.” He called for an emergency parliament session and an immediate investigation into the incident.

    Residents of the neighborhood known as Mosul Jidideh told the AP on Friday that scores of residents were believed to have been killed by two airstrikes that hit a cluster of homes in the area. Resident Ahmed Ahmed said there were over a hundred people within the cluster taking refuge from the missiles.

    AP reporters saw at least 50 bodies being recovered from the wreckage of the buildings.

    Faced with their toughest fight yet against IS, Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to airstrikes and artillery to clear and hold territory in Mosul’s densely populated western neighborhoods. Humanitarian and monitoring officials warned of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the increased reliance on airstrikes and artillery.

    Backed by U.S.-led international coalition, Iraqi forces launched an operation in February to drive IS from the western half of Iraq’s second-largest city, after declaring eastern Mosul “fully liberated” the previous month. The city is divided by the Tigris River .

    This report was written by Sinan Salaheddin of the Associated Press. Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

    The post U.S. acknowledges its forces were behind airstrike on Mosul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Applications for health coverage

    File photo of federal government forms for applying for health coverage by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    As the political drama over health care legislation in Washington fades, the rest of the country faces a more immediate concern: Getting insurance for next year.

    The Republican health plan designed to replace the Obama-era health law known as the Affordable Care Act would not have taken full effect for a few years anyway — and now it’s dead.

    “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday.

    That means millions of Americans will have to navigate a current federal health care system that, while not “imploding” as President Donald J. Trump has said, is at least in flux.

    Mary Vavrik, a 57-year-old freelance deposition court reporter from Anchorage, Alaska said she was relieved that the current health law will remain because she’s happy with the coverage she gets through her exchange — even as she acknowledged that reforms are needed.

    “It’s not a perfect plan but I’m really grateful to have what I do have,” she said.

    Prices for insurance plans offered on the public insurance exchanges set up by the health care law have soared in many markets, and choices for customers have dwindled. That’s because insurers have faced sizable financial losses on the exchanges in recent years, and have responded by either hiking prices or pulling out of certain markets altogether.

    Now, attention will turn to administrative changes underway in Washington designed to stabilize the exchanges by preventing more insurer defections.

    The open enrollment period to sign up for insurance for 2018 is slated to start this fall, but insurers are making decisions now about whether to participate. What kinds of plans will be available and how much they will cost will depend on a few key decisions by insurers and regulators in the coming weeks.

    WILL I HAVE PLANS TO CHOOSE FROM?

    It depends on where you live. Choices are dwindling, but chances are at least one insurer will sell in your market. That company may offer several plans.

    Generally, big cities will have more choices than rural areas where there may not be enough customers to attract insurers.

    As of now, there are 16 counties in a region of Tennessee around Knoxville that have no insurers committed to sell coverage on the exchange next year. About a third of the nation’s 3,100 counties are down to just one insurer.

    Insurers have been pulling back, and more are expected to leave, but health care researchers are not predicting mass defections.

    “For most consumers, (2018) will look a lot like ’17,” said Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere.

    Customers can try to find coverage outside their exchange, but then they won’t be able to use tax credits to help pay the bills, which may be particularly painful since many markets have seen prices soar.

    ARE THERE FIXES IN STORE?

    Last month, the Health and Human Services Department, which runs exchanges in many states, proposed some adjustments to try to stabilize these marketplaces.

    For example, insurers want greater scrutiny of people who sign up for coverage outside of the open enrollment period. Customers are supposed to be allowed to do so only if they have a life-changing event like the birth of a child, a marriage, or the loss of a job that provided coverage, but insurers have found that people are just waiting to sign up when they need care.

    Another proposed adjustment would let insurers design cheaper plans tailored to younger people who may not need lots of health care but want to be protected in the event of a big injury or sickness. That could be very helpful, because insurers say they have struggled to attract younger and healthier customers to the marketplaces to balance out the claims they pay from those who use their coverage.

    Those changes are expected to be finalized in the next month or so.

    WHEN WILL INSURERS MAKE THEIR DECISIONS ON 2018?

    Some have said they want to see the final version of the proposed federal adjustments before deciding where and what kinds of coverage they will offer.

    But insurers generally have to decide by this spring whether they will participate in order to leave enough time for regulatory approvals and marketing before enrollment starts next fall.

    Aetna, the nation’s third largest insurer, has set an April 1 deadline for deciding on 2018. The company has already pared its marketplace participation down to 4 states this year from 15 because of heavy financial losses.

    Customers won’t know for certain who is selling on their exchanges until early next fall. While insurers have to apply to sell coverage on their exchanges generally by late spring or early summer, they can drop out later.

    IS THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT “IMPLODING” AS PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS SAID ON TWITTER?

    No. The marketplaces are not expected to dissolve next year, even though choices have dwindled.

    While there’s debate over the law’s tax burdens and its impact on government budgets, the federal plan has covered more than 20 million people.

    About 11 million are covered through an expansion of Medicaid, the health program designed to help poor Americans. Another 12 million buy private insurance through the law’s marketplaces, most with help from subsidies based on income.

    Associated Press reporter Mark Thiessen contributed from Anchorage.

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    Turkish President Erdogan attends a ceremony marking the 102nd anniversary of Battle of Canakkale, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, at the Turkish memorial in Canakkale

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony marking the 102nd anniversary of Battle of Canakkale, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, at the Turkish memorial in Canakkale, Turkey, March 18, 2017. Photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters

    ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president said Saturday the country might pursue a Brexit-like referendum on whether to pursue European Union membership and also lashed out at a critical protest in Switzerland.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brought up the proposal at a Turkish-U.K. forum in the southern city of Antalya, referring to the British departure from the EU and saying Turkey “might” hold a similar referendum after the April 16 vote to expand the powers of the Turkish presidency.

    The negotiation process for Turkey’s EU membership began in 2005, but has been at a standstill for years.

    Tensions between Ankara and several European capitals have been escalating ahead of the contentious April 16 referendum.

    Turkish opposition members and Western allies have criticized the constitutional referendum, saying it would grant Erdogan unprecedented authority with limited checks and balances.

    Earlier this month, Dutch and German authorities restricted Turkish officials from campaigning for diaspora votes, resulting in harsh criticism from Ankara.

    At a rally earlier Saturday, Erdogan lashed out at the critics who claimed Turkey would not be allowed into the EU if the referendum passed, saying it would “make our job easier” if Europe made that call and adding “Turkey is no one’s whipping boy.”

    Erdogan also criticized a demonstration in Switzerland on Saturday where protestors hung a giant banner depicting the Turkish president with a gun to his head.

    People hold banners and flags during a demonstration against Erdogan dictatorship and in favour of democracy in Turkey in Bern

    People hold banners and flags during a demonstration against Erdogan dictatorship and in favour of democracy in Turkey in Bern, Switzerland March 25, 2017. The bannerr reads “Say no to Erdogan.” Photo by Ruben Sprich/Reuters

    The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had summoned Swiss charge d’affaires to condemn the incident and that the minister had called his Swiss counterpart to voice his displeasure.

    The statement also claimed the demonstrators belonged to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, adding that it would be “closely monitoring the legal and administrative actions to be taken by Swiss authorities regarding this crime.”

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    House Speaker Ryan holds news conference after Republicans pulled American Health Care Act bill before vote on Capitol Hill in Washington

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Joining us now to discuss the implications for the Trump administration as it tries to move forward is “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    So, it was not a good day. Paul Ryan agreed about that and President Trump sort of did. Who was hurt worse?

    JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, any time the Trump-friendly “Drudge Report” puts the Hindenburg explosion on the front page, it’s kind of a clue things didn’t go well. I think the initial fallout is going to hit the Congress and the speaker, because a lot of what he did was mystifying. I mean, a lot of the policy in the health care repeal was in direct contradiction to what the president has said in terms of insurance for everybody. And then the endless and unsuccessful attempt to feed the Freedom Caucus, the most conservative hard-right group in the Congress, not only didn’t work, but then it alienated two dozen moderates.

    So, whether this means that the people who have been suspicious of Ryan, the Breitbart folks, are going to suggest that his speakership is endangered, I don’t think we know that yet. But I think that he took a real hit this week.

    SREENIVASAN:
    Well, what about the White House?

    GREENFIELD: Well, of course, if you listen to Trump, you know, everything worked out fine, but that’s Donald Trump. Here’s what I think is at stake here — the whole argument here made, “I am the outsider. I am the deal cutter. I know how to get things done and cut through the morass of Washington” has clearly taken a hit.

    I think the second thing, although why this should have been a surprise to anybody, is Donald Trump — let me be blunt about this– simply doesn’t care about the policy implications. It’s about winning. It’s about beating his enemies. It’s about looking successful.

    So, for the Republicans who are now saying, “All right, we’ll do tax cuts. We’ll do infrastructure” — how are they going to deal with a president who really isn’t interested in the details of things like tax cuts and how we get infrastructure?

    SREENIVASAN: Now, Paul Ryan said, “We’ll be living with Obamacare. This is the law of land.” There are still things that Republicans can do and likely will plan to do.

    GREENFIELD: I think this is the most important thing to keep in mind, because we’re all talking about the political implications. You need — the executive branch has to implement the Affordable Care Act. In Health and Human Services Secretary Price, former congressman, you have perhaps the single most zealous opponent of the ACA.

    We’ve already seen what can happen. They pulled ads, TV ads, off the air at the time of open enrolment. Enrolment numbers went down. Why does that matter, because if you don’t get healthy, younger people to sign up for various insurance, that means that the insurance companies are dealing with older, sicker people. That means insurance premiums go up.

    The federal government, the executive branch, can give states all kinds of leeway to tighten, for instance, Medicaid applications, who gets on. They can change how the subsidies work for low income people who are otherwise face with high deductibles and co-pays.

    So, if the administration is looking to undermine Obamacare, the have the tools to do it. The question is, will Trump actually do what he says, maybe I’ll reach out to Democrats, we’ll try to figure out a way to make it work, I wouldn’t bet much at all on that prospect.

    SREENIVASAN: You’ve watched a few presidents now coming out of the blocks, all of them have some speed bumps. But compare this rash in last 60 days to previous presidents.

    GREENFIELD: Well, you’re quite right. You know, Bill Clinton had the attempt to end the ban on gays in the military. John Kennedy had the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961, which really, you know, caused him to take a very serious rethinking of his relationship with the CIA. The spate of them, you know, the travel ban, the second travel ban that’s in trouble with the courts, the hiring and firing of national security administrator Michael Flynn, the still-unanswered questions about Russia.

    And I think this one goes to the heart of what people thought was going to happen, you know, right out of the blocks, he said, I’m going to — he now says he never intended to — never promised repeal of Obamacare quickly. Yes, he did.

    And so, what the president is now facing is a challenge to the very premise of his election, as I said earlier, “I can get things done.” And when you realize the health care repeal was the precursor to things like the tax cut plan, how are they going to do that in the absence of repeal? Yes, he is now facing — not to mention the approval ratings which are dismal, historically dismal — he’s facing very tough road.

    Just one quick thing, though — we journalists are the Olympic champions in the “jumping to conclusions” event. If this were September of ’18, the Republicans would be facing a disaster. We’ve got a year and a half to go.

    SREENIVASAN: Yes.

    GREENFIELD: After what we lived through the last year and a half, you want to tell me we know what’s coming?

    SREENIVASAN: We don’t.

    All right, Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much.

    GREENFIELD: All right.

    The post Assessing the impact of the failed GOP health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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