Tom Price: The Republican now in charge of Obamacare

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Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, accompanied by his wife Betty, after a swearing-in ceremony last February. AP/Andrew Harnik

Over at RealClearPolitics, Bill Scher writes that Tom Price may have been the saddest man in Washington over the weekend. The guy gave up a safe congressional seat and perhaps a run for governor, too, all for the vanished chance to construct a national health care system in the conservative image. Writes Scher:

But instead of being the point person for repeal, now [Price] will be responsible for the daily management of the law that he despises.

 

The Affordable Care Act was written to give the HHS secretary considerable latitude in implementation. But with that power comes a great political and moral dilemma for Price: improve the program, or undermine it?

 

Trump claimed on Twitter Saturday, “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!” But the president should worry about getting blamed for any explosion, especially if the cause can be traced to Secretary Price’s actions.

Our AJC colleagues Misty Williams and Tamar Hallerman tapped the same vein of thought on Sunday:

Next month marks a decisive moment for Obamacare.

 

That’s when insurance companies will tell states whether they plan to offer coverage in the exchanges in 2018 and, if so, how much they plan to charge consumers. The exchanges offer insurance plans for people who don’t get coverage through their employers.

 

Several big players, including UnitedHealthcare, have already pulled out of exchanges across the country, including in Georgia, citing large losses because the populations they covered were older, sicker and more expensive than anticipated.

 

Large swaths of rural Georgia have only one insurer available on the exchange, Blue Cross and Blue Shield. That lack of competition has contributed to far higher premiums in rural areas compared to metro areas like Atlanta.



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Cobb County continues to inch away from its “Hell, no!” position on transit. From Sunday’s Marietta Daily Journal:

Though county commissioners could take a stance Tuesday on a possibility of passenger rail service in Cobb County, Chairman Mike Boyce said the county is not looking to start funding such a transit option just yet.

Boyce is proposing a resolution encouraging the state to maintain control of a rail corridor running from Midtown Atlanta through Cobb County to Chattanooga, Tennessee, over the possibility that the rail line could be used one day for passenger transportation.

The issue is Senate Resolution 228, a measure to permit the state to negotiate a 50-year lease on 137 miles of the Western & Atlantic rail line, now under the control of CSX. The line passes through four Cobb County cities.

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On Friday night, U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., made it into the opening monologue on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” It consisted of playing with the congressman’s name — something he’s probably been dealing with since third grade. You can watch it here.

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This morning, the Associated Press put a price tag on one phase of the culture wars that Georgia has avoided:

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

 

Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state’s biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.

Click here to read more.

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Medical marijuana advocates would do well to pay attention to this development out west. From the Associated Press:

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.

Recreational marijuana hiding behind medicinal marijuana can’t do the latter any good in a fight for respectability. On the other hand, you’ve got to admire the chutzpah. It’s rather like fantasy sports operators on the wrong side of Georgia’s’s anti-gaming mandate redefining themselves as overseers of skilled combat.

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Former Secretary of State Karen Handel doesn’t have the personal wealth of her top rivals in the Georgia special election. And fundraising has long been a challenge for her. But now we have evidence she’s calling in the big guns.

Former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Republican mega-donor Fred Cooper will hold a fundraiser for Handel on Wednesday at Cooper’s Buckhead home. The suggested contributions start at $1,000 a couple.

 

Financial disclosures for the 18-candidate April 18 special election aren’t due until next week, so there’s a lot we don’t know about how much each candidate has spent.

But we know that Handel was vastly outspent in her last race, the 2014 campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat, by her Republican rivals. And we know that the roughly $5 million spent on TV ads so far in this year’s campaign for the 6th District don’t include a dime from her.

Thanks to her trio of statewide campaigns and roots in the district, which stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb, that hasn’t seemed to hurt. She’s the top Republican in most of the polls – internal and external – that have surfaced.

But the dynamic is about to change dramatically. Republicans scrambling for a slice of the electorate will sharpen their attacks. And Club for Growth, the conservative super PAC that backed Bob Gray, has telegraphed a coming attack on Handel.

Pretty soon, it seems, she’ll need to dig into her campaign coffers to play some defense.

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They laid off each other on the debate stage on Sunday, but Judson Hill’s campaign team took aim at fellow Republican Bob Gray after the debate.

Gray’s campaign has adopted the #takethehill hashtag, a clear effort to needle the former state senator, whose campaign ads introduced the slogan “Take the hill, Hill.”

Hill operative Brian Robinson also lashed out at him late Sunday:


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