When it comes to health care reform there is a big change that unites President Trump and U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH.
This is for Congress to do something about surprise medical bills, the sticker shock many Americans get hit with when they open mail from a health care provider only to find the owed amount is so much larger than they ever could have imagined.
There’s Paul Davis, a retired doctor from Findlay, Ohio, whose family dealt with a $17,850 bill for a simple urine test.
A teacher in Texas last year got a $108,951 bill from the hospital after his heart attack because even though the teacher had insurance, the hospital was not in his insurance network.
“[People] go in, they have a procedure and then all of a sudden they can’t afford it, they had no idea it was so bad,” Trump said at a roundtable with patients at the White House last week about the issue.
“We’re going to stop all of it, and it’s very important to me,” he added.
Hassan sponsored legislation to protect patients from these bills and said after Trump’s remarks momentum is building for bipartisan action.
“I was very glad to see the President start to pay attention to the issue,” Hassan said.
As always in the sausage factory, getting to a compromise won’t be easy.
The powerful hospital and health care provider communities are pushing back hard, maintaining this bill stands to be a financial catastrophe for them.
“As I would expect with any bill like this, there have also been issues identified and raised by entities who are worried about their profits, and so I’m expecting to continue to hear those concerns,” Hassan said.
Trump urged his health secretary, Alex Azar, and labor secretary, Alex Acosta, to come up with a solution.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is a leading negotiator on the issue, along with Hassan and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate health panel.
Money, money, money
Newly named Republican State Chairman Stephen Stepanek said he’ll hit the road next week to begin reestablishing a solid financial base for the state GOP.
“We’re going to raise money, raise some more money and then raise even more money,” Stepanek said.
He wasted no time in sending out a fundraising email to the state donor base.
“I am heading to DC next week to build the relationships with key allies and organizations that can help the NH GOP succeed financially, but we need to show them that New Hampshire Republicans are willing to invest in our state Republican Party,” Stepanek said.
Stepanek views the campaign of Democratic legislative leaders for a paid family and medical leave bill as a potential magnet for financial support.
The NH GOP financed a web video ad attacking the proposal the same day that an overflow committee room took testimony earlier this week.
“Democrats have regained control of the New Hampshire State Legislature for the first time in years.
“And they’ve made a paid family medical leave program that creates an income tax their top priority,” the ad states.
Right out of that gate in response, Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley repeated his call Stepanek should show good faith about his donors by returning $39,000 the state party has received from Steve Wynn, both through his past role as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and from him personally.
Earlier this week the Wynn Resorts agreed to pay an undisclosed fine to the Nevada Gaming Control Board to settle allegations of sexual misconduct against Wynn, who has denied those charges.
“After nearly a year of posturing and deflections, it’s time for Governor Sununu and his Republican Party to finally respond to Steve Wynn’s disgusting pattern of sexual harassment and assault. If Sununu truly stands by his ‘zero tolerance’ policy, he’ll immediately refund Steve Wynn’s total donations to the New Hampshire Republican Party,” Buckley said in a statement.
State GOP officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Ed funding campaign
Supporters for overhauling the education aid law will host a 12th forum tonight (Thursday) at Memorial High School in Manchester.
Meanwhile, two NH House committees took testimony earlier this week on several bills championed by the forum founders, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, and Concord lawyer John Tobin.
At the outset, Volinsky said Gov. Chris Sununu and the Legislature need to restore cuts made in the last two state budgets to stabilization grants that are meant to help communities hardest hit with high public school costs.
The two also seek a commission with professional staff to update the cost of a constitutionally assured adequate education and study ways to pay for it
“In part we want to encourage those attending to talk with their elected representatives and press the point that the local property tax is a terribly onerous burden for working families,” said Volinsky, who is considering a 2020 run for governor.
“For communities like Manchester with student populations that need additional services, the problem is just exacerbated.”
Volinsky and Tobin were part of the lead legal team that won the Claremont lawsuit, which led to the state Supreme Court ruling that reliance on the local property tax was unconstitutional.
But Volinsky said those local taxes pay 73 percent of total school costs.
Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord has signed onto an interim way to pay for these increases in grants (HB 686), which is to impose a 5 percent capital gains tax.
The bill would at least double the exemption that all working families would get from the existing 5 percent tax on interest and dividends and if adopted it would raise $84 million in 2020.
The forum starts at 6 p.m.
(For more Granite Status, go to www.unionleader.com)
Student loan payments
U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, D-NH, wrote Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urging her to ensure that student loan programs are not interrupted by any future federal government slowdowns.
They seek new guidelines to protect workers who aren’t able to make student loan payments due to future stoppages.
“When furloughed or forced to work without pay because of a government shutdown, many of these workers must confront difficult financial decisions. In addition to uncertainty over feeding their families and paying their mortgages, many federal employees also struggled to make their student loan payments during the recent shutdown. As you are aware, missed payments can result in default and potentially lasting damage to the borrower’s credit history,” Kuster and Pappas wrote.
“It is unacceptable and unreasonable that these hardworking Americans should be forced to bear this burden.”
Gillibrand picks former NH operativeU.S. Sen.
, D-NY, makes her first visit to the Granite State this Friday and Saturday, starting with a stop at the Stark Mill Brewery in Manchester and ending with events in the North Country.
Two weeks ago she campaigned in Iowa, the home of the first caucus.
Gillibrand has brought on board as her spokesman a familiar face — Evan Lukaske, who had served as press secretary in the past for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Swalwell returns for Exeter forumU.S. Rep.
, D-Calif. comes back tonight as he considers a 2020 primary bid.
The Rockingham County Democrats are sponsoring a meet-and-greet event with him at the Exeter Inn starting at 7 p.m.
”We look forward to hearing Congressman Swalwell’s views on the key issues of the day,” said Larry Drake, chair of the Rockingham County Democrats. “I am sure the discussion will be very thought-provoking.”
Auto voter registration wins supportSen.
, D-Hollis, is taking on a big lift in her first term as the author of the first-ever bill to create automatic voter registration in New Hampshire, known as the Secure Modern Accurate Registration Technology Act or SMART Act.
A coalition including America Votes, the Brennan Center for Justice, ACLU-NH, the League of Women Voters and the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights has gotten behind the measure.
The bill essentially would register someone to vote if they did business with a state agency, such as to get a driver’s license or renew an auto registration.
“It’s all there in the name — the SMART Act is a smart move for New Hampshire that creates a secure, modern, and accurate registration system the likes of which are already being implemented across the country including among some of our neighbors,” Senator Levesque said. “Secure and modern voter registration will safeguard and improve access to our elections. As the first-in-the-nation (primary) state, that’s a goal we should all share.”
Levesque has been meeting with Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who in the past has opposed registering to vote at places other than at local and city town halls or at all polling places on election day.
Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand said this change would save the taxpayers of his city and many others the expense of logging in all those new registrants who show up at the polls.
”The SMART Act will ensure that I have the ability to register voters more efficiently and securely while saving the city hundreds of hours of data entry work, as well as money, following Election Day.”
America Votes, a left-leaning group that backs this reform, estimated it cost Normand’s office $130,000 in such post-election costs.
Shaheen brings back key advisor, invites PFOA advocateSen.
, D-NH, has a former staffer and longtime operative returning to join her 2020 Senate campaign.
is returning to the Shaheen team as a senior advisor. He’s most recently been chief executive with the New Hampshire College and University Council.
Shaheen also announcedthat her guest at next Wednesday’s State of the Union will be Andrea Amico. The Seacoast activist co-founded the group Testing for Pease, which is dedicated to getting the federal government to set hard limits on two chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, which have gotten into drinking water.
No doubt the move is to bring attention to the growing speculation about whether Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency will embrace a tougher federal limit for drinking water.