Obamacare subsidy fight shifts to California courtroom

Obamacare is back in court Monday.

Lawyers representing 18 states and the District of Columbia will ask a federal judge in California to block the Trump administration from terminating cost-sharing subsidies aimed at helping lower income individuals afford health insurance.

Judge Vince Chhabria of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, could rule on the motion for a temporary restraining order as early as this week.

The Trump administration earlier this month announced it would immediately stop supporting the cost-sharing subsidies that reimburse insurers for reducing the deductibles and co-pays of lower-income Obamacare enrollees. Although the government has been making the payments since January 2014 and nearly 6 million people receive the subsidies, Republican critics — including GOP lawmakers who challenged the payments in court — say that Congress never properly approved the money for those reimbursements.

If the government stops making the payments, insurance companies are likely to raise their premiums in the future, a move experts say could destabilize the entire law. More than 10 million Americans are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

President Donald Trump has indicated several times that he hopes to spur congressional negotiations over the future of Obamacare.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!” Trump tweeted earlier this month.

In court papers, the states, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, argued that the payments are required and authorized by the Affordable Care Act. They said that the President’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, a federal law that governs how agencies can establish regulations.

They also argued the administration’s decision violates the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution that mandates that the President faithfully execute the law.

“Since taking office, the Trump administration has engaged in a continued and sustained effort to ‘explode’ the ACA by making it more difficult and expensive for individuals to procure health insurance coverage through the Act’s health insurance Exchanges,” Becerra wrote.

“Interim relief will bring some modicum of stability and order to the situation and prevent irreparable harm to the plaintiff States and to the millions of Americans who have access to affordable health insurance because of the ACA,” he wrote.

Becerra said if the administration halts the payments, insurance companies would be “forced to raise premiums to cover the shortfall, and would strongly reconsider participating in the Exchanges in future years, making future years’ market viability uncertain at best.”

Democrats in Congress, led by Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, filed a brief in support of the state’s position, emphasizing they were involved in the enactment of the Affordable Care Act and that Congress did provide the funding for the cost-sharing provisions.

Lawyers for the government maintain, however, that Congress never authorized the payments.

“The power of the purse is among the most essential powers of the Legislative Branch,” acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler argued in court papers. “No matter how compelling the rationale, neither the Executive nor the Judiciary has the authority to expend taxpayer dollars, including billions of dollars in annual cost-sharing reduction payments under the Affordable Care Act, if Congress has not appropriated those funds.”

Readler also emphasized that in 2016 a federal judge in the District of Columbia agreed that Congress never appropriated the payments in a suit brought by the GOP-led House of Representatives against the Obama administration.

That opinion was put on hold pending appeal, and after the change of administrations, the Trump Justice Department had been contemplating how it wanted to move forward. A status update is due in that case on October 30.

In court briefs, Readler suggested that the California case is simply an attempt by the states to find a more sympathetic judge. He recommended that Judge Chhabria refrain on ruling on the motion for a temporary injunction and instead transfer the case back to the District of Columbia, where the states are already parties to the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs cannot simultaneously pursue identical claims in two courts,” he wrote.

Obamacare subsidy fight shifts to California courtroom

Obamacare is back in court Monday.

Lawyers representing 18 states and the District of Columbia will ask a federal judge in California to block the Trump administration from terminating cost-sharing subsidies aimed at helping lower income individuals afford health insurance.

Judge Vince Chhabria of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, could rule on the motion for a temporary restraining order as early as this week.

The Trump administration earlier this month announced it would immediately stop supporting the cost-sharing subsidies that reimburse insurers for reducing the deductibles and co-pays of lower-income Obamacare enrollees. Although the government has been making the payments since January 2014 and nearly 6 million people receive the subsidies, Republican critics — including GOP lawmakers who challenged the payments in court — say that Congress never properly approved the money for those reimbursements.

If the government stops making the payments, insurance companies are likely to raise their premiums in the future, a move experts say could destabilize the entire law. More than 10 million Americans are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

President Donald Trump has indicated several times that he hopes to spur congressional negotiations over the future of Obamacare.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!” Trump tweeted earlier this month.

In court papers, the states, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, argued that the payments are required and authorized by the Affordable Care Act. They said that the President’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, a federal law that governs how agencies can establish regulations.

They also argued the administration’s decision violates the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution that mandates that the President faithfully execute the law.

“Since taking office, the Trump administration has engaged in a continued and sustained effort to ‘explode’ the ACA by making it more difficult and expensive for individuals to procure health insurance coverage through the Act’s health insurance Exchanges,” Becerra wrote.

“Interim relief will bring some modicum of stability and order to the situation and prevent irreparable harm to the plaintiff States and to the millions of Americans who have access to affordable health insurance because of the ACA,” he wrote.

Becerra said if the administration halts the payments, insurance companies would be “forced to raise premiums to cover the shortfall, and would strongly reconsider participating in the Exchanges in future years, making future years’ market viability uncertain at best.”

Democrats in Congress, led by Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, filed a brief in support of the state’s position, emphasizing they were involved in the enactment of the Affordable Care Act and that Congress did provide the funding for the cost-sharing provisions.

Lawyers for the government maintain, however, that Congress never authorized the payments.

“The power of the purse is among the most essential powers of the Legislative Branch,” acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler argued in court papers. “No matter how compelling the rationale, neither the Executive nor the Judiciary has the authority to expend taxpayer dollars, including billions of dollars in annual cost-sharing reduction payments under the Affordable Care Act, if Congress has not appropriated those funds.”

Readler also emphasized that in 2016 a federal judge in the District of Columbia agreed that Congress never appropriated the payments in a suit brought by the GOP-led House of Representatives against the Obama administration.

That opinion was put on hold pending appeal, and after the change of administrations, the Trump Justice Department had been contemplating how it wanted to move forward. A status update is due in that case on October 30.

In court briefs, Readler suggested that the California case is simply an attempt by the states to find a more sympathetic judge. He recommended that Judge Chhabria refrain on ruling on the motion for a temporary injunction and instead transfer the case back to the District of Columbia, where the states are already parties to the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs cannot simultaneously pursue identical claims in two courts,” he wrote.

Jambalaya suspected in Louisiana salmonella outbreak

Scores of people are sick after an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in Louisiana that may have caused the death of one person, according to officials.

Jambalaya sold at a fundraiser in Caldwell Parish in northern Louisiana on October 16 is the suspected cause of the illnesses, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

“The fundraiser was supported by many local businesses throughout the community that purchased plates of jambalaya,” the department said in a statement Thursday.

As of October 19, 49 cases of gastrointestinal illness had been confirmed in patients aged 15 to 70 years old, it said, with samples from five people testing positive for salmonella.

“Health officials believe that at least 300 people were served the suspect jambalaya and are anticipating there will be more reports of illness in the next several days, the department said. “One death has occurred and an autopsy is occurring to determine if the death was caused by this illness or other causes.”

Jambalaya is a stew-like dish of Louisiana origin, made with meat, chicken, sausage, vegetables, rice and often seafood.

The health department said food purchased from the fundraiser — including side dishes that could have had contact with the jambalaya — should be thrown away.

What is salmonella?

Salmonellosis, the infection caused by the bacteria salmonella, is one of the most frequently reported foodborne illnesses in the United States, with an estimated 1 million salmonella cases occurring annually.

Approximately 380 people die each year due to salmonella, according to the CDC.

People become infected by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fever. Most people experience symptoms within eight to 72 hours after contaminated food is ingested.

Infections usually resolve in three to seven days, and mild cases often do not require professional treatment. More severe cases require antibiotics.

Salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. The salmonella infection can spread from the intestines to the blood stream and cause death if not treated early.

Malaysia Airlines picks new CEO after string of departures

Malaysia Airlines is turning to a company insider to tackle one of the toughest jobs in the aviation industry.

The struggling airline named former pilot Izham Ismail as its new CEO after it emerged last week that its current boss is unexpectedly leaving. Izham is Malaysia Airlines’ fourth CEO in less than three years.

The new chief has spent his entire career at the company. He said in a statement that he is “ready for the challenge” of steering the airline’s ongoing turnaround.

Izham is taking over the task of revamping the struggling carrier from Peter Bellew, who is returning to Ryanair after barely a year running Malaysia Airlines. Bellew’s predecessor, Christoph Mueller, suddenly announced his departure last year.

Before Mueller, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya ran the company for several years and was in charge during the disappearance of Flight MH370 and the shooting down of Flight MH17 in 2014.

Analysts say eventually hiring a local CEO again was always the plan for Malaysia Airlines, which was nationalized after the 2014 disasters. Mueller and Bellew were both brought in from outside Malaysia with the aim of using their international experience to fix the money-losing business.

The company said in a statement that Izham’s appointment is in line with Malaysia Airlines’ succession plan, “which provides for the development and succession of Malaysian leadership talent.”

“It’s the right move,” said Brendan Sobie, an analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation. “At this juncture, appointing someone from within the company should ensure there is no interruption with the transformation.”

The airline has made some aggressive cost cuts in recent years, shedding about 6,000 jobs and scrapping most of its long-haul routes to focus on flights within Asia.

Raising Money on the Road from NCAI to Alaska (Plus Corrections) #NativeVote18

Guest Commentary Published October 23, 2017 Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports New Mexico congressional candidate Debra Haaland is criss-crossing Indian Country determined to get her name out there — and to raise enough money to be competitive. She began in Milwaukee at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention and she ends the week […]

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Unsent letter from Titanic passenger sets auction record

A letter recovered from the body of a passenger on the Titanic has fetched $166,000 at auction.

The selling price for the document, believed to be one of the last letters written before the ocean liner hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic, surpassed expectations.

British auction house Henry Aldridge & Son had predicted the item would go for £60,000 to £80,000 ($79,000 to $106,000). The identity of the buyer, who outbid rivals on Saturday with a £120,000 ($166,000) offer, wasn’t disclosed.

The letter was written by first-class passenger and American salesman Alexander Oskar Holverson to his mother. It contains the haunting line “If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M.”

One reason it was so sought after by collectors was because it’s dated 13 April, 1912. That’s just one day before the ship sank midway through its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York.

The letter features Holverson’s personal impressions of the ocean liner, the biggest in the world when it was completed more than 100 years ago.

“This boat is giant in size and fitted up like a palacial hotel,” he wrote.

Holverson also describes his awe at seeing fellow first-class passenger John Jacob Astor, at the time one of the world’s richest people. Holverson and Astor both died when the ship went down, along with about 1,500 other passengers and crew. Roughly 700 people survived, including Holverson’s wife, Mary.

Holverson’s body along with the letter and other personal effects were recovered from the Atlantic days later.

The sale tops the previous record for correspondence sent from Titanic.

In 2014, a letter written by second-class passenger and survivor Esther Hart sold for £119,000 — also at Henry Aldridge & Son, which specializes in Titanic memorabilia.

That’s less than the price Holverson’s letter went for in pounds. But the U.K. currency has fallen sharply against the dollar since Britain voted last year to leave the European Union. That means Hart’s letter was worth a lot more in dollars when it was sold in 2014 — about $200,000, according to exchange rates at the time.

Another storied piece of Titanic memorabilia that changed hands at Saturday’s auction was an iron locker key from the ship belonging to Sidney Daniels, the last surviving member of the crew. It sold for £76,000 ($100,000).

Udall Amendments to Budget Resolution Would Protect Indian Country from Harmful GOP Budget

Published October 23, 2017 WASHINGTON — Last Thursday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, announced that he has filed several amendments to the Senate Republicans’ fiscal year 2018 budget resolution to protect Native communities and programs that are vital to Indian Country. The deceptive Republican budget bill would slash billions […]

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