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July 17, 2017
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Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have often cast it as a blow against greedy companies in the health-care industry that are more concerned with their bottom line than Americans' wellbeing. It's a narrative significantly complicated by health insurance companies' experience of a "profit spiral" of rising income since ObamaCare went into effect and, now, a new Politico report which finds nonprofit hospitals have made more money and spent less on charity care, defined as "free treatment for low-income patients," since 2013.

The upshot, as Politico summarizes, is the "top seven hospitals' combined revenue went up by $4.5 billion per year after the ACA's coverage expansions kicked in, a 15 percent jump in two years. Meanwhile, their charity care — already less than 2 percent of revenue — fell by almost $150 million per year, a 35 percent plunge over the same period."

This happened, Politico reasons, because the ACA produced about 20 million new paying customers for hospitals nationwide while maintaining a system of tax exemptions, established for half a century, in which the hospitals pay lower taxes on the condition that they can demonstrate service to their communities, usually through the charity care. So post-ObamaCare, many not-for-profit hospitals have higher incomes, significantly in the form of tax dollars via the Medicaid expansion's shifting patients out of the charity care programs, but receive the same tax benefits as they did pre-ObamaCare.

Read the full Politico report here. Bonnie Kristian

4:50 p.m. ET

Nevada Democrats have a new weapon under their sleeves as they prepare for a tough Senate and gubernatorial race in their state: a turtle mascot named "Mitch McTurtle."

In case you don't get the joke, Nevada Democrats hope that this smiling turtle — which holds bags of money in order to symbolize Republican economic policy or something like that — will be a sick burn against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Republican Party in Nevada.

Improbably, The Hill reports that McTurtle was "well received" at his unveiling and that someone described as a "local activist" actually tweeted praise for the plush reptile. Of course, the Mitch McTurtle Twitter account — which only has 27 followers at the time of writing— soon retweeted it. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:12 p.m. ET

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tried to take off a pair of glasses. There was just one problem; he wasn't wearing any glasses.

Rather than point out, as some Twitter users did, that this reflexive motion is not uncommon for people who wear contacts, the soon-to-be retiree (or the staff who run his Twitter account at least) responded with a millennial-friendly witticism.

A spokesperson for Hatch later told The Hill that the senator left his reading glasses at home and simply succumbed to the Pavlovian instinct to take them off. It was a mistake, the spokesman said, that "many glasses and contact lens wearers can relate to." Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:06 p.m. ET
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President Trump's personal doctor claimed he would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" when he was a candidate, and now that such a reality has actually come to pass, the 71-year-old earned similar superlatives from presidential physician Ronny Jackson, who said Trump has "incredible genes" and declared him to be "in excellent health." Trump underwent the routine physical examination on Friday in Bethesda, Maryland, the Los Angeles Times reports.

During a press conference Tuesday, Jackson said Trump is 6'3" and weighs 239 pounds, up from 2016 when he weighed 236 pounds, "which the medical community considers overweight; if he were 6-foot-2, as listed on his New York driver's license, he would be considered obese," The Washington Post writes. His heart exam was normal, his total cholesterol was 223, and he did "exceedingly well" on cognitive and neurological tests, which he personally requested, Jackson said. Trump's medications include Crestor for cholesterol, which Jackson said he has increased, aspirin for his heart, Propecia for male pattern hair loss, cream for rosacea, and a multivitamin.

Jackson added that Trump ought to lose 10 to 15 pounds and that he was "more excited about the diet part than the exercise part." Jackson claimed that Trump's slurred speech during a public appearance last month might have been caused by Sudafed, and that an ultrasound after the incident turned up no concerning results.

Less flattering was the opinion of The Washington Post, which noted last week that Trump is "older than all previous presidents when they first took office. He is also the heaviest president in at least a generation and consumes a diet heavy with Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, fried chicken, pizza, well-done steak, and two rounds of dessert. He seems to get little exercise beyond swinging a golf club, as he spends most of his time on the course traveling in an electric cart. And he likes to brag about how little sleep he gets." Jeva Lange

2:50 p.m. ET
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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) left office Tuesday, but not before he signed a Democratic-sponsored bill that bans the sale or possession of "bump stocks" in his state, NJ.com reports. The divisive legislation comes in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last year, when the gun accessory was used to murder 58 people and wound some 489 others. Bump stock owners in New Jersey now have 90 days to turn over the items to authorities.

"These are simple, easy-to-use devices that increase the firepower and killing power of firearms," explained former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who retired last week. "There is no legitimate need for these devices." Residents of New Jersey were not previously allowed to use bump stocks — the accessories weren't even allowed in the "vicinity of a weapon," NJ.com writes — but Christie's law officially requires the devices be removed from the state altogether.

The legislation passed unanimously in the state Senate and Assembly, which are both controlled by Democrats. Democrat Phil Murphy was sworn in as Christie's replacement just before noon Tuesday. Jeva Lange

2:08 p.m. ET

Lindsey Graham misses the good old days.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, the South Carolina Republican lamented that President Trump had changed in a disturbing way over the last week, clearly referencing the president's disparagement of Haiti, El Salvador, and unnamed African nations as "shithole countries."

"[Last] Tuesday we had a president who I was proud to golf with, call my friend, who understood immigration had to be bipartisan ... but he also understood the idea that we had to do it with compassion," Graham said before making a plea to the president: "I don't know where that guy went. I want him back."

After he made his remarks, Graham ran into reporters outside the hearing and told them he believed the president's staff was to blame for this whole ordeal: "I think someone on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock on Thursday." He added: "We cannot [make a deal on immigration] with people at the White House who have an irrational view on how to fix immigration." Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:56 p.m. ET

Japanese officials are using emergency loudspeakers normally reserved for earthquake alerts to warn residents of the city of Gamagori not to eat potentially deadly fish sold from a local supermarket, The Japan Times reports. The local store allegedly sold five packages of fugu without removing the fish's liver, which can contain an extremely dangerous neurotoxin. "Eating fugu liver can paralyze motor nerves, and in a serious case cause respiratory arrest leading to death," officials warned.

Fugu is an expensive delicacy, but it is also so dangerous that it must be prepared for consumption by specially licensed professionals. There is not an antidote for its poison, which can be more toxic than cyanide and is also found in its skin, intestines, and ovaries, the BBC reports.

So far, three of the five packages sold by the store have been recovered "but we still don't know where the remaining two are," said local official Koji Takayanagi. Jeva Lange

12:56 p.m. ET
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Swiss food and beverage company Nestlé announced the sale of its American candy businesses, including brands like Crunch, Gobstopper, and Butterfinger, to the Italian confectionary company Ferrero for $2.8 billion, CNBC reports. The sale will evidently make Ferrero, which owns Nutella and Ferrero Rocher pralines, the third-largest chocolate company in the world.

"With Ferrero we have found an exceptional home for our U.S. confectionery business where it will thrive," said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider. "At the same time, this move allows Nestlé to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals, and infant nutrition.”

Nestlé's chocolate brands have reportedly been struggling in the U.S. due to "consumers' preference for healthier snacks like fruit and nut bars and premium brands like Lindt," CNBC writes. The sale will not include Nestlé's Toll House products or candies it produces globally, like KitKat. Jeva Lange

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