Republicans Are Playing a Game of Jenga With Health Care Reform



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As a majority of Americans await the inauguration of a president they didn’t vote for, even more Americans face an unclear future about their health care coverage.

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President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress have pledged to repeal and eventually replace the Affordable Care Act, known to most as Obamacare. In fact, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, the Senate began making moves to dismantle the ACA, voting 51-48 on a budget blueprint that would allow senators to gut the law without fear of a Democratic filibuster. However, the Republicans have two equally important and hard-to-fix problems: They’re beholden to the insurance lobbyists, who want to keep the bill; and, more importantly, President Barack Obama has rigged the game so that any change to the ACA will bring the whole health care system down.

The ACA/Obamacare political and policy battle over the last seven years is the perfect microcosm of the Obama presidency. Some people hate the policy because Obama came up with it (as this classic Jimmy Kimmel sketch shows); some people hate Obamacare on ideological grounds but love the Medicaid expansion, pre-existing-conditions rule and the extension of dependent health care until the age of 26. While millions of Americans approve of the law and have benefited from it, they aren’t as loud (or didn’t receive as much media attention) as those who hate it.

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This deeply divided public mood explains why Republicans have been so craven and inconsistent with their calls to repeal or replace the law. They want to dismantle Obama’s legacy, but red states benefit most from the ACA. More importantly, despite more than 40 votes to repeal the law and four election cycles since its passage, Republicans have yet to come up with a comprehensive replacement law. Of course, there are two reasons for this, just not ones the GOP wants to admit to.

Remember the wooden-block game Jenga, which made a comeback at grown-up “board game parties“ in the early 2000s? The goal is to keep taking blocks from the bottom of the tower and putting them on top without the whole thing falling apart. If you’re careful when you pull, things just wobble; if you’re not, then the whole thing crumbles.

Republicans are realizing that Obamacare is a lot like the game Jenga. You can’t pull out the “bad blocks” of policy—like, say, the public mandate—and keep the “good ones,” like forcing insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. If you keep messing with it, eventually the whole thing is going to fall apart. Except instead of blocks on the floor, you have 20 million Americans thrown off their health insurance.

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The second reason Republicans can’t figure out this repeal is that drug companies run this town. By “run,” I mean smack around and take lunch money, and by “town,” I mean Washington, D.C. Since the passage of the ACA, insurance-company profits have skyrocketed, as has their lobbying power and ability to pump cash into policy-friendly candidates. In order to distract critical members of Congress and the press, insurance companies are employing “nonprofits” and think tanks to find a new bad guy: the drug industry.

Now that everyone is forced into coverage, health care companies want to squeeze every dime out of the consumer. This is often done through “formularies,” which are lists of drugs that companies will and will not cover. Who determines if a drug is covered? Why, advisory nonprofits funded by health-insurance companies, of course.

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It’s much easier for health care companies to bad-mouth and blame overpriced drugs than to acknowledge that they simply don’t want to cover you. This is not to say that drug companies don’t engage in price gouging—but the middle man passing on costs and taking cash out of your wallet is insurance, not Martin Shkreli.

These complex issues are just the tip of the iceberg America is crashing into while Donald Trump tweets that he’s king of the world. The GOP can’t repeal a policy it can’t replace, and it can’t manage an industry that pays its bills. The little wooden pieces of policy, which represent the lives and well-being of millions of Americans, will end up all over the floor. Except this time, the Republicans in Congress won’t have Obama or a Democratic majority to blame for it.

Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root, is a professor of political science at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera International, Fox Business News and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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La. Mom Says She’s Done Having Kids After Giving Birth to 14-Pound Son



Loyalty Adonis Grover, who was born weighing 14 pounds, 1 ounce WDSU screenshot

LaQueena Hunter Grover, now a mother of four, is accustomed to big babies.

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Her first two children weighed just over 7 pounds, and her third child was a whopping 11.9 pounds.

However, WDSU reports, when she was pregnant with her fourth baby, she thought maybe she might have twins this time.

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“People would come up to me and say, ‘Oh I think that’s twins or even triplets. Maybe there’s another hiding behind one of the babies,’” Grover told the news station.

However, on Dec. 6, Grover gave birth to only one child, Loyalty Adonis Grover, who weighed in at 14 pounds, 1 ounce.

“Right when the doctor was taking him out, my husband’s mouth literally just dropped,” Grover said. “He was like, ‘That’s a big baby.’ When [Loyalty] was born, he was 14 pounds, 1 ounce. I remember the nurse came running back, and when she told me that, I swear, had I not been on the gurney already, I would’ve passed out right there when she said that.”

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Not-so-little Loyalty had to spend 27 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, but now he is finally home with his mother. At a little over a month old, Loyalty now weighs 15 pounds and measures 2 feet in height.

“He wears a size 3 Pamper. He’s supposed to be in a size 1 as a newborn. He wears 3- to 6-month-old clothes, and he wears some 6- to 9-month clothes. I put on him some shorts that were for 18-month-olds,” Grover said.

And Grover told the news station that her baby boy has a big personality to match his incredible size.

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“He acts like the Incredible Hulk when he does not get what he wants. He does not like to be wet. He likes to be changed immediately. And he wants to eat as soon as he gets hungry,” she said.

Grover says that Loyalty is perfectly healthy, despite some complications during her pregnancy, and with his size, there may be big things in store for him.

“The doctors told me that last time they heard of a 14-pound baby, they were starting for the [New Orleans] Saints or something,” Grover said.

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One thing’s for sure, though: Grover says she is done having kids.

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Read more at WDSU.

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Fla. Teen Accused of Masquerading as Doctor Indicted in Separate Va. Fraud Case



Malachi Love-Robinson Twitter

The Florida teen who is already facing multiple charges for allegedly pretending to be a doctor is now facing even more charges in a separate Virginia fraud case, NBC News reports.

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According to the report, Malachi Love-Robinson was indicted by a Virginia grand jury for allegedly attempting to illegally buy a $35,000 Jaguar, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

The 19-year-old was arrested Sept. 9 in Stafford, Va., after allegedly giving a fake earnings statement at a car dealership. Love-Robinson was reportedly accompanied by an elderly woman he claimed was his mother.

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“The employees there [became] suspicious of the situation due to some of the things Mr. Love-Robinson was saying,” the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said in a release following the arrest. “They Googled his name and found that a subject with the same name had been arrested numerous times on fraud-type charges in the state of Florida.”

The employees then duped Love-Robinson, telling him that they wanted to check his credit, while they actually called the police. They then told the teen that his credit application had been approved and that he could come pick up his car.

When Love-Robinson arrived, detectives were waiting for him.

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Love-Robinson insisted to police that the woman accompanying him, who he said was his godmother, had agreed to sign the loan. However, the unidentified woman told police that she had “no intention of doing so” and was actually surprised when investigators found that “there were two other loan applications submitted in the last couple days with her information.”

Detectives also checked in with the woman’s credit card company and uncovered that “there had been a $1,200 charge the day before for two iPads and a cellphone that she had not purchased.”

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Those items were taken from Love-Robinson after his arrest, the sheriff’s office said. He was indicted on charges of false statements to obtain credit, obtaining money by false pretenses and identity fraud.

As NBC notes, Love-Robinson was not even supposed to be in Virginia at all, since he was arrested last February in Florida and hit with multiple charges, including practicing medicine without a license, forgery and grand theft for allegedly operating out of a clinic in West Palm Beach with no official medical training.

Per his pretrial release terms, he was not allowed to travel out of Florida without permission. However, the teen never told authorities that he was going car-shopping in another state, and the judge has since revoked his $26,000 bond, according to the report.

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Read more at NBC News.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer Will Oppose Jeff Sessions’ Nomination for Attorney General



Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in 2015 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has come out against President-elect Donald Trump’s attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), noting that he doesn’t believe Sessions will be willing to go against Trump should the law require he do so.

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Schumer released a strongly worded statement noting that the role of attorney general must ensure the rights of all Americans.

“The attorney general of the United States has a sacred obligation to enforce our laws and uphold the Constitution. The law gives a voice to the voiceless, it protects the oppressed from the powerful, and it defends the rights of all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, or religion,” Schumer’s statement read, the New York Times reports.

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“The attorney general must wake up every single day ensuring the rights of all Americans—immigrants, minorities, young and old, gay and straight, disabled and not—are protected. Every right—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the freedom to vote, or any other enshrined in our Constitution or the law—must be protected for every American,” Schumer continued.

While it isn’t shocking that the Democratic leader is strongly opposed to the Southern senator who’s steeped in allegations of racism, it’s worth noting that Sessions’ confirmation vote will most likely be split across party lines.

Read more at the New York Times.

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Spy Chief Tries to Make Peace With Trump Over Russian Dossier



Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. in 2014 Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference since winning the presidency, to less-than-stellar reviews. Trump was combative and elusive when questioned about Russia’s involvement in his bid to become president and compared the U.S. intelligence agencies to Nazis after unclassified information was leaked to the press.

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On Wednesday evening, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, released a rare statement in an attempt to smooth things over. Clapper assured the president-elect that the leaks did not come from inside the U.S. intelligence community, the New York Times reports.

“I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. intelligence community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC. The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security,” Clapper’s statement read.

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Clapper added that the intelligence community made no judgment on the documents or the allegations within. According to the Associated Press, the documents were passed around Washington for months before they began being reported on.

While nothing in Clapper’s letter indicated that the allegations were fictitious or false, that didn’t stop Trump from going to Twitter early Thursday morning to recount his interpretation of Clapper’s explanation.

It’s going to be a long four years.

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Read more at the New York Times and the Associated Press.

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