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Morning Action: More Americans are Losing Doctors Under Obamacare

OBAMACARE.  More Americans are losing their doctors as they purchase new health care plans under Obamacare:

The first thing Michelle Pool did before picking a plan under President Barack Obama’s health insurance law was check whether her longtime primary care doctor was covered. Pool, a 60-year-old diabetic who has had back surgery and a hip replacement, purchased the plan only to find that the insurer was mistaken.

Pool’s $352 a month gold plan through Covered California’s exchange was cheaper than what she’d paid under her husband’s insurance and seemed like a good deal because of her numerous pre-existing conditions. But after her insurance card came in the mail, the Vista, California resident learned her doctor wasn’t taking her new insurance.

EDUCATION.  Lawmakers are working on an early education bill, which is bringing to light differences of opinion on federal spending  (sub. req’d):

The HELP Committee will consider a draft bill championed by congressional Democrats that would create two new federal supports for early education. One is a formula grant program to help states expand existing full-day, high-quality preschool programs for children from low-income families, and the second is a competitive grant program to help those states that don’t have programs launch them.

The measure would set standards for teacher training and pay, class size and the availability of health care and other services. States would have to contribute an increasing amount of matching funds every year.

The federal government spends about $8 billion annually on Head Start and $5 billion on grants to help low-income families with day care costs, plus smaller amounts for other programs. Republicans, who cite a 2012 Government Accountability Office report that found 45 programs in some way support those efforts, say states are in the best position to decide how to use that money to care for and educate young children.

The consolidation largely would apply to Head Start, through which the Health and Human Services Department gives grants directly to public and private organizations to run preschool programs for low-income and homeless 3-and 4-year-olds.

FINANCIAL MARKETS.  Financial regulators are seeking a budget boost from Congress (sub. req’d):

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White and acting Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Mark Wetjen will testify before the Senate Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee over how to strengthen oversight and integrity of financial markets.

The regulators are expected to renew their call for additional resources to respond to the rise in high-speed trading and other technological innovations.

The SEC would receive a 26 percent increase from current spending levels under President Barack Obama ’s fiscal 2015 budget. That would bring the agency’s spending authority to $1.7 billion from $1.35 billion.

The CFTC would get a 30 percent increase over fiscal 2014 levels under Obama’s proposal, raising the CFTC’s budget to $280 million, up from $215 million.

Senate Democrats are receptive to the plea for more money.

WIND CREDIT.  The renewable energy tax credit is at the center of the Senate’s latest energy fight (sub. req’d):

The Senate on Tuesday easily cleared the first procedural hurdle for moving to debate the tax extenders package, although uncertainty over whether amendments will be allowed may threaten support for the bill moving forward.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) 56%, said Tuesday he remains opposed to amendments, citing the need to keep the tax provisions within the Congressional Budget Office revenue baseline.

“Normally I would want amendments,” he said. “And there might be some amendments I would vote for. But I think a lot of people who want amendments want to kill certain provisions in this bill.”

One provision in the line of fire from conservatives is the two-year extension of the renewable energy production tax credit, which Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) 70%, dubbed the “zombie tax credit. ”

Grassley, who played a key role in creating the credit more than two decades ago, said it’s still too early to let it lapse for good. “I obviously want to preserve that for three or four more years until we get a mature industry,” he said.

HIGHWAY.  Backers of the highway bill in the Senate are using the theme of accountability to sell it to those who are opposed (sub. req’d):

If you think there’s an echo around the term “transparency,” you may be onto something. The draft of a Senate highway bill has a five-page section about “Highway Trust Fund Transparency and Accountability,” that would require the Transportation Department to provide the public with much more detailed online reports about trust fund spending and obligations. It also would require the department to report to Congress about the administrative costs of running the trust fund.

On Monday, many hours before senators released their proposal for a long-term highway bill, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Tom Donohue posted a blog item saying the first pillar of a national business plan for infrastructure is “transparency and accountability.” Donohue said flatly. “Americans will never buy into a long-term funding plan until they are confident that their hard-earned dollars are going to be spent wisely.”

Donohue explained the tough sell ahead for lawmakers: “For decades, they’ve been fed stories of wasteful pork barrel projects, bridges to nowhere, and bringing home the proverbial bacon to win votes. Although earmarks have been largely eliminated for transportation, much of the public still equates infrastructure spending with waste, fraud and inefficiency.”

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