Amid a last GOP push to repeal, the plight of Georgia hospitals is overlooked

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins said Sunday she finds it “very difficult” to envision backing the last-chance GOP bill repealing the Obama health care law. AP file/Robert F. Bukaty

Late Friday, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., threw an adjustable spanner into Senate Republican plans for a last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s still alive, if barely, and didn’t get any healthier with the weekend statement from Susan Collins of Maine that she’s a likely “no” vote. And so we have some last-minute sweetening. From the Washington Post:

Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) will propose giving Alaska and Maine more funding than initially offered. Those states are represented by Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), who have expressed concerns about the bill but have yet to say how they would vote.

Other senators have been notably quiet. Among them is Georgia’s Johnny Isakson. The third-term GOP senator was undecided going into the weekend, but he sounded positive notes about the bill during an interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) on Friday morning.

We expect to hear more from him today. His colleague David Perdue, we previously told you, said he was “all in.”

Yet largely forgotten in this debate is the plight of Georgia’s hospitals – the big city ones that handle a huge load of indigent patients, and rural ones with little income outside of Medicare patients.

Elsewhere, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman and Ariel Hart have this report:

Nearly one hundred and fifty million dollars to keep Georgia hospitals’ indigent care afloat. Funding for the PeachCare program that along with Medicaid covers about half of Georgia’s kids. Clear answers on Obamacare subsidies that Blue Cross said it needed to keep selling individual plans in metro Atlanta.

Those are some things that Congress has not taken care of — or even, in some cases, clarified its position on — as deadlines and expirations approach at the end of September. That’s this week.

And then there’s this piece from the AJC’s James Salzer:

State lawmakers thought they’d found a way to help struggling rural hospitals by offering $180 million in tax credits to Georgians willing to donate to them, but the program has gotten off to a slow start.

The state allocated a third of the tax credits for this year and legislators passed a bill increasing incentives to donors, but by mid-September, only a little more than $3 million had been spoken for.

“We are extremely disappointed,” said Jimmy Lewis, the CEO of Hometown Health, a coalition of rural hospitals. “For the value to rural hospitals that are in trouble, this could have been an excellent source of operating revenue. The enthusiasm is just not there.”

Outside the AJC, we have Andy Miller of Georgia Health News, who joined forces with the Huffington Post to produce a piece that begins thusly:

If you want to watch a rural community die, kill its hospital.

After the Lower Oconee Community Hospital shut down in June 2014, other mainstays of the community followed. The bank and the pharmacy in the small town of Glenwood shuttered. Then the only grocery store in all of Wheeler County closed in the middle of August this year.

On Glenwood’s main street, building after building is now for sale, closing, falling apart or infested with weeds growing through the foundation’s cracks.

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Vice President Mike Pence is in Alabama today, joining the Senate Republican effort to save one of its own, incumbent Luther Strange. Polls show Roy Moore, a former Alabama chief justice, ahead in Tuesday’s special election/primary runoff.

Donald Trump’s visit to Huntsville was intended to help fix that, but the president’s warm remarks about Moore, and his high-profile condemnation of the take-a-knee movement in the NFL may have complicated things.

Alabama may be one place where Trump isn’t in control of his own brand. On Sunday, we received a fundraising email from a Moore-supporting Super PAC, that keyed on Trump’s demand that football team owners should “Tell that son of a bitch he’s fired.”  It begins this way:

That’s what Trump said NFL team owners should tell every NFL player who refuses to stand for the national anthem.  That’s also what we conservatives should tell every squishy Senator – first Arlen Specter, then John McCain, now Luther Strange – endorsed by Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary.  In his Alabama speech, President Trump called Judge Roy Moore “a good man,” pledged “to campaign like hell for Moore” in the general election, and admitted that an ill-considered endorsement of Moore’s opponent “might be a mistake.”

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Sally Yates, the former acting U.S. attorney general fired by President Trump, will appear at an Ohio fundraiser this evening for Steve Dettelback, a Democratic candidate for state attorney general, according to USA Today.

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Hidden within German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s weekend re-election victory was worry over a 13 percent showing by the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD)party. From the Wall Street Journal:

For Germany, where the Nazi era left a deep-seated aversion to right-wing populism, the AfD’s result creates a new political reality. The party describes Germany’s Muslim minority as a “great danger” and thinks too much attention is paid to Holocaust remembrance.

“Unfortunately our fears have come true,” said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “A party that tolerates extreme right-wing thoughts and agitates against minorities is now not only in nearly all state parliaments, but also in the federal parliament.”

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The Wall Street Journal is also reporting that former Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and his wife, Wilma, has given more than $100,000 to a GOP legal defense fund for President Donald Trump and his son.

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Lust and Wisdom must soon co-exist — on the Powder Springs City Council. As GeorgiaPol.com recounts, Patricia Wisdom defeated Henry Lust back in December 2015 for an at-large spot on the Cobb County town’s board. But Lust didn’t cave into desires to quit politics. He qualified to run for an open position last month, and his lone opponent was recently disqualified from running. Thus Lust prevails, if by default. We can’t wait to see how Lust and Wisdom get along over there.

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The inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services has launched an investigation into Secretary Tom Price’s private jet use. This came after news that the former Georgia lawmaker, who once railed against bureaucrats flying private, and his staff chartered at least two dozen flights in recent months, at a combined public expense of $300,000. He announced over the weekend that he’ll be curtailing the practice until after the investigation is completed.

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Speaking of Price’s HHS department, it announced on Friday that it plans to shut down its website for 12 hours at a time on all but one Sunday during Obamacare’s upcoming open enrollment season. Most of those hours are overnight, but some critics called the move a deliberate attempt to undermine the health care law.

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Former Insider Daniel Malloy has a captivating look at Democrat Stacey Evans’ childhood that includes this snippet from the gubernatorial candidate’s mother, Kim Godfrey: Though she leans Democratic, she voted for Donald Trump in November, giving him credit for “standing up for us.” Read the entire piece at Ozy.

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U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Decatur, wants more information about the way the Atlanta credit firm Equifax and its two main competitors handle customer lawsuits in the aftermath of the firm’s massive data breach. The Lithonia Democrat and three colleagues wrote Equifax, TransUnion and Experian late last week seeking more information on whether they plan to include forced arbitration language – which often requires customers to forgo the ability to sue the company in court as they sign up for service — in their terms of service going forward.

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Johnson’s colleague Doug Collins tonight plans to hold his first town hall since his tumultuous in-person event last month. This time, though, the Gainesville Republican will answer questions over the phone beginning at 7:30 p.m. The format makes things easier for Collins since he’s in Washington this week for the House session. It also gives his staff more power to make sure the event does not go off the rails.

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