Washington Watch - 7/25/16
You may have already seen the news, but the Associated Press covered a confidential document last week that revealed some troubling news about the Iran nuclear agreement: Iran is getting a much better deal than much of the world previously knew. Before the nuclear agreement even expires, the document reveals that, starting on the eleventh year of the agreement, Iran will be allowed to acquire thousands of advanced centrifuges that are up to five times as efficient as its current capabilities. While it was previously thought that Iran’s nuclear “break out” time, or the time it would take it to enrich enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, would be at least a year during this timeframe, this new revelation means that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in 6 months or less—cutting in half the amount of time the world would have to react should Iran pursue weaponization.
While the document itself is very troubling and only deepens my fears about the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran, I am even more troubled that the President wasn’t fully transparent with the American people about the deal our nation was getting in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of permanent sanctions relief. The loser in this equation isn’t just international security as a result of an even more dangerous nuclear deal, it’s the trust of the American people who are wondering why their President couldn’t be frank and honest with them about the terms of the agreement. I was pleased to see the House pass three Iran-related bills two weeks ago, including one that would impose a host of brand new sanctions on Iran, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for any future legislation that corrects our nation’s course on Iran.
- House Foreign Affairs Committee. Secret Document Confirms Deal Leaves Iran Just a Short Step From a Nuclear Bomb
- CBS News. AP: confidential document eases Iran nuke constraints
- ABC News. AP excusive: document shows less limits on Iran nuke work
The Department of Justice last week announced that it was challenging the proposed mergers of Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna in what could be the largest health insurance company consolidations in U.S. history. It would be easy to pit the Obama Administration against the health insurance industry in a partisan political struggle, but that’s not the case here. These health insurance companies are looking at the new health insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act and they see that the best way to thrive is to merge. On the other side of the ledger are state insurance commissioners, physicians groups, and the Justice Department that are worried about over consolidation of the industry and how that might affect prices for consumers.
But this isn’t just an academic argument. These potential mergers have real effects for Georgians. Anthem is the parent company of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Georgia, and the Medicare Advantage plans supported by Aetna and Humana, if merged, would serve roughly one-third of Georgia’s more than 460,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Premium price changes, new physician networks, reimbursement adjustments for physicians, and more are all possible outcomes of these mergers, and as such, it’s imperative that government regulators and the health insurance industry work together to ensure that the mergers – if approved – are in the best interests of consumers. I look forward to following this issue as it continues to move through Washington, and you can follow the issue right here in Georgia when Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens holds a public hearing on the issue on July 26th.
- Medical Association of Georgia. Why the Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna mergers are bad for Georgia
- Washington Post. Justice Department sues to block two health care mega-mergers
- Chattanooga Times Free Press. Tennessee, Georgia join with feds to block Anthem’s purchase of Cigna
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with a fantastic group of folks in Cleveland – including some of our neighbors from Georgia – about how our government can do better for middle class Americans. The event was sponsored by Real Clear Politics and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
In fact, I was so happy to be able to take questions from folks in the audience who have never visited our part of the world and to tell them about the success stories that we have in the great Seventh District of Georgia. Our district is a microcosm of America – we have everyone from those who have made it to those who are still trying; we have the middle class, first generation Americans, ethnically diverse neighborhoods, and the young and the old.
When it comes to economic opportunity and success, the question is always, “Can you grab the bottom rung of the economic ladder; and no matter which rung you are on, do you have the tools to reach for the next one?” We do not live in a “success-is-guaranteed society,” but we do live in an opportunity society. Seventh District families demonstrate that each day, and I can share those successes nationally in Congress.
Two weeks ago, the House Republican Conference released its A Better Way agenda for the 115th Congress. One of the policy platforms in that agenda is to reform our nation’s health care system. While the House’s proposals are geared toward helping consumers regain control of their health care dollars and choices, an integral part of ensuring that all Americans can receive the health care they deserve is making sure that we have enough physicians to serve them.
You might not know it, but Medicare is the major funder of graduate medical education for our nation’s student doctors. Unfortunately, population increases in economic powerhouse states like Georgia haven’t been met with the necessary increase in physicians. Too many “sunbelt” states in the southeast and the southwest are lacking a sufficient number of primary care physicians, and that’s a shortage that will ultimately lead to fewer choices for Americans.
As we work to reform our nation’s health care system, I look forward to working with the State of Georgia, health insurance plans, medical colleges, and hospitals to find new ways to financially support the training of new physicians. Medicare simply can’t be expected to shoulder the entire burden, and I applaud states like Georgia that are tackling the physician shortage head-on and coming up with state and local solutions.
- WABE Atlanta. Georgia’s physician ‘drought’ could become a crisis
- Albany Herald. Medical education expanding in Southwest Georgia
- Augusta Chronicle. Georgia hopes new residency slots help with doctor shortage
While the Democrats will be meeting in Philadelphia this week to formally nominate Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, I will be back in the Great State of Georgia meeting with our friends and neighbors. Businesses are opening their doors so that we can talk about opportunities and challenges with their employees, and community groups are opening their doors so that we can talk with their members. I know a bright future is ahead for America, and working together, we are already at work on that goal today.
Member of Congress