Did GOP strengthen Affordable Care Act?

Along with celebrating a major revamp of tax rates — which will generate a windfall for lots of companies and wealthy individuals like himself — President Trump is crowing about a provision in the Republican tax bill he is preparing to sign that repeals the penalty for not obtaining health insurance coverage.

The tax legislation includes repeal of the penalty connected to the so-called “individual mandate,” the provision of the Affordable Care Act that required all Americans to secure health coverage or pay a fine. Trump went even further, suggesting the tax bill had accomplished through the backdoor what Republicans were unable to do this summer. With the individual mandate repealed, he declared yesterday, “that means Obamacare is being repealed.”

In what was not exactly the first occurrence of its kind, Trump got out a little bit ahead of the facts. His fake news bulletin notwithstanding, the bulk of the Affordable Care Act remains in place.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who shares Trump’s views on the law but has a generally closer relationship with facts, recognized that the tax bill only touches one part of the health care law. But he says the repeal marks the “beginning of the end of the Obamacare era” by “knocking down a major pillar of what has proven to be an unworkable and unpopular law.”

Is this the first step in what will be a continued march to full repeal of the law?

John McDonough, a health care expert at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, doesn’t think so. What’s more, he says, Republicans have actually made it less likely that the full law will be repealed by including the mandate provision in their big tax bill.

McDonough helped plan the federal law while working for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and was instrumental in designing the Massachusetts law that served as its template. (The individual mandate for Massachusetts residents will remain in effect through that state law.) Contrary to Hatch’s characterization, McDonough wrote yesterday in CommonWealth, Americans “strongly favor” most parts of the Affordable Care Act: “Medicaid expansion, private insurance subsidies, elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions and medical underwriting, guaranteed coverage of critical services such as pharmaceuticals, and lots more.”

We saw that during the Republican effort earlier this year to repeal the ACA, which foundered because of concerns about stripping coverage from low-income people who have been able to obtain insurance under the law. The individual mandate “by a country mile” was the least popular part of the law, says McDonough. So while there is talk by Republicans of making another effort to repeal the law, by repealing the individual mandate penalty, McDonough says, “they just eliminated their most potent – and perhaps only – political weapon.”

The main effect of the mandate repeal, say analysts, will be an increase in rates for those with incomes above the threshold for Affordable Care act subsidies, who are buying non-group policies. Some healthy people will no longer feel compelled to buy insurance, driving up rates for those who don’t want to risk being without coverage. The “sad irony,” says McDonough, is that this unsubsidized group “has been the favored poster child for Republican criticisms of the ACA.”



A report from Inspector General Glenn Cunha alleging widespread abuse of sick time in the office of Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins elicits little response from power brokers on Beacon Hill. (Eagle-Tribune) The Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce stands behind its decision to hire Cousins as president. (Salem News)

Josh Miller says Gov. Charlie Baker has weathered President Trump’s first year in office pretty well. (Boston Globe)


The Bridgewater Town Council approved a measure to ban retail marijuana stores but allow cultivation of recreational pot. (The Enterprise)

The Fall River City Council overrode a veto by Mayor Jasiel Correia of its order for him to go to court to remove an easement granted to a developer to build a road across and along a popular rail trail. (Herald News)


President Trump stands to personally gain millions of dollars through last-minute changes made to the tax overhaul now on his desk (Boston Globe) US Sen. Susan Collins of Maine who said she would vote for the tax cut in exchange for a promise to fix Obamacare has withdrawn her health bills after conceding the support in congress is not there right now. (U.S. News & World Report)

Trump commutes the 27-year sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, whose Iowa meatpacking plant was raided by authorities for using illegal workers in 2008. (New York Times)


Victims of clergy sex abuse spoke out in the wake of the death of Cardinal Bernard Law. “I hope he gets what he deserves in hell,” said one. (Boston Herald) Law was “one of the greatest enablers of sexual abuse in the history of the world,” says the Globe’s Kevin Cullen. A Globe editorial decries the decision to accord Law a funeral observance that seems oblivious to his past, with Pope Francis scheduled to participate in today’s rites. Some worry that the Catholic church commitment to ongoing review of clergy sex abuse issues is flagging. (Boston Globe) Bill Forry reflects on the enormous damage and pain Law enabled — and on the bright hopes many had on the day he arrived in Boston and made his first stop at the charred remains of St. Ambrose Church in Fields Corner, which had been devastated that week by a fire. (Dorchester Reporter)


Gov. Charlie Baker gives a mixed review to the new federal tax law, drawing sharp criticism from one of his Democratic challengers, Setti Warren. (State House News)


A deal to purchase the Boston Globe’s former headquarters in Dorchester closed yesterday, with a partnership of Burlington-based developer Nordblom Co. and Boston private equity firm Alcion Ventures acquiring the 16.5 acre site for an undisclosed sum. (Boston Globe)

A retired Syracuse businessman is building a mountain of 110 million pounds of salt shipped in from Egypt to store in Fall River to meet the winter needs of cities and towns in the region. It’s a venture he intends to expand when the rail comes to the Spindle City’s waterfront. (Herald News)

The Yawkey Foundation took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to refute the push by Globe and Red Sox owner John Henry to change the name of Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park because of late owner Tom Yawkey’s racist reputation. The ad, which is not available online, offers evidence of deals made and sought involving black players to prove Yawkey was not racist. The information is selective, though. It cites Earl Wilson’s rise through the system in the 1950s without mentioning he was traded when he complained about the team segregating black and white players in separate hotels during spring training in Florida. The ad also ignores Yawkey’s support for a private South Carolina school that was founded for white students in the wake of desegregation.


Bay State Wind has pledged $1 million to Bristol Community College for wind-energy training if the company wins the off-shore lease for a wind turbine farm. (Standard-Times)


American life expectancy declined for the second year in a row, fueled by a 21 percent increase in the death rate from drug overdoses. (Washington Post)


Three companies submitted bids for the state’s offshore wind procurement that varied quite dramatically by size, transmission approach, and construction timetable. (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey is appealing a decision by the Department of Public Utilities to grant Eversource an annual rate increase of $36 million. (Boston Globe)

Eversource has reached an agreement with Framingham to pay the town $500,000 for failing to clean-up a contaminated parcel the company purchased in 2008. (MetroWest Daily News)

Falmouth’s building commissioner has ordered town officials to come up with a plan to dismantle the wind turbine shut down by a judge’s order two years ago. (Cape Cod Times)


The Barnstable Sheriff’s department has received approval to partner with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify illegal immigrants and detain them for federal adjudication. (Cape Cod Times)

A pilot program is launched to help family members of murder victims deal with the post-traumatic stress symptoms they often suffer from. (Boston Herald)

Police investigating break-ins at South Shore fast food restaurants found dozens of stolen Amazon packages while searching the home of one of the suspects. Attorney General Maura Healey said the packages will be returned to the retailers and hopefully sent back out in time for Christmas. (Patriot Ledger)