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2020 Daily Trail Markers: 20 million more now eligible for Obamacare coverage

As millions of people file for unemployment each week in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a new study finds more than 20 million people who had job-based health coverage will become eligible for Affordable Care Act coverage.

CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis estimates 26.8 million people nationwide would become uninsured if they don't sign up for other coverage due to job losses.

The vast majority of those people are eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, including 12.7 million through Medicaid and 8.4 million in the ACA marketplaces. Another 5.7 million are not eligible and would have to pay the full cost of their coverage, and more will likely remain uninsured.

"Unlike in past recessions, most of those who lose their job-based coverage will be eligible for health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, though some may find coverage unaffordable even with subsidies," KFF Executive Vice President for Health Policy Larry Levitt said in a statement. "As unemployment benefits expire, however, about two million more people in states that did not expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA will move into the Medicaid coverage gap and have no affordable option."

The analysis found about 150,000 people who live in states that did not expand Medicaid programs would fall into the "coverage gap," meaning they are ineligible for Medicaid but have incomes too low to qualify for tax credits to help cover costs in the marketplace.

The group will grow to 1.9 million by January 2021 when worker unemployment benefits expire, leaving them with incomes below the threshold to qualify for tax credits.

The study comes as lawmakers are grappling with how to navigate the health care debate as a case over the Affordable Care Act heads to the Supreme Court. On Sunday, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander was asked if he was disappointed that the president decided to go ahead with the Obamacare lawsuit after arguments in the case were filed with the country's highest court last week.

"Well, the answer to your question is yes. I thought the Justice Department argument was really flimsy," said Alexander.

The case focuses on the ACA's individual mandate after a lower court used it to find the entire law to be unconstitutional. "What they're arguing is when we voted to get rid of the individual mandate, we voted to get rid of Obamacare," Alexander said. "I don't know one single senator that thought that."

This week, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas was also asked by a local anchor in Austin what people can do if they've lost job-based insurance. Texas is one of just over a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid.

"Well, the good news is that if you lose your employer-provided coverage, which covers about a 180 million Americans, that is a significant life event, which makes you then eligible to sign up for the Affordable Care Act," Cornyn responded. "And as you know, it has a sliding scale of subsidies up to 400% of poverty. So that's an option for people."

Democrats have seized on the health care issue, making it a major focus of their messaging in an election year after it played a central role in the 2018 midterm elections. Both Alexander and Cornyn have voted to repeal and replace Obamacare in the past.

But Democrats are also facing questions over how to address the rising costs of premiums. Some are advocating for single-payer government run Medicare for All. The KFF study found coverage losses due to losing employer provided insurance will affect at least a million people in each of eight states including California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. Several of these states are considered battlegrounds in the November election.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden announced working campaign "panels" comprised of mostly prominent Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders supporters, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. The six panels will focus on climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, health care, and immigration, and have been in the works since Sanders endorsement weeks ago.

The groups "will meet in advance of the Democratic National Convention to make recommendations to the DNC Platform Committee and to Vice President Biden directly," according to the campaign. Some notable panelists include Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former Secretary John Kerry, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

The group includes many other congressional members and other progressive activists, some who wrote about their initial hesitation in joining the Biden working groups. Biden also confirmed in a Snapchat interview that he has yet to be tested for COVID-19 but that his Secret Service detail has been tested. "I should be tested," Biden said, "So that's, that's in play. We'll see how that goes."

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

President Trump told reporters today he continues to keep his distance from the Vice President after his press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus last week. "I haven't seen Mike Pence and I miss him," Trump quipped, adding that the two speak on the phone often. "I guess we said for a little while we'll stay apart because you don't know what happens with this crazy, horrible disease," the president added, referring to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The president also called reports of Former Vice President Joe Biden's possible involvement in efforts to "unmask" former national security advisor Michael Flynn "a massive thing," taunting his likely democratic rival reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. "He said he knows nothing about anything," Trump said of Biden. "I suspect you'll have, if it's possible, even bigger stories coming out," he added.

"Joe Biden's limp claim that he doesn't know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable," Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale wrote in a statement. "Biden is listed among the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn. We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked. Americans have a right to know the depth of Biden's involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax."

In an interview on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, Biden acknowledged he was aware that "they asked for an investigation" into Flynn while he was vice president, but said renewed discussion over the matter "is all about diverting attention" from the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Look, think about this — can you imagine any other president of the United States focusing on this at a moment when the country is absolutely considered about their health of their children, the health of their families?" he said. "This is all about diverting attention. Focus on what is in front of us."

In a statement Wednesday, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the release of the list was an "attempt at dishonest media manipulation to distract from his response to the worst public health crisis in 100 years."

"These documents simply indicate the breadth and depth of concern across the American government — including among career officials — over intelligence reports of Michael Flynn's attempts to undermine ongoing American national security policy through discussions with Russian officials or other foreign representatives," Bates said. "The only people with questions to answer are Grenell, Sen. Grassley, and Sen. Johnson for their gross politicization of the intelligence process."

VEEPSTAKES

AMY KLOBUCHAR & ELIZABETH WARREN

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are calling on the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to prevent large companies receiving bailout funds from eating up smaller businesses crippled by the pandemic.

The senators, along with Representative David Cicilline, made the request Wednesday in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

"The American taxpayer should not be financing opportunistic corporate deal making," the lawmakers wrote. "To protect small businesses and their workers, and to ensure a functioning, competitive economy as we emerge from this crisis, we urge you to use your broad authority and discretion to restrict large companies that receive taxpayer-subsidized bailout funds from engaging in mergers and acquisitions."

More broadly, Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in late April proposed a moratorium on "risky mergers and acquisitions" for large companies, private equity firms and hedge funds until businesses stabilize. They have not yet released the text of their Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act.

CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports Warren also introduced a bill with Rep. Rosa DeLauro to extend the federal deadline to file labor and employment claims until after the Secretary of Health and Human Services lifts the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration.

"Because of COVID-19, workers already facing terrible health risks are also confronting increased barriers to legal representation and worried the clock will run out on seeking relief," Warren said in a statement. "Our bill will make sure workers' rights aren't thrown off to the side because of a public health emergency by extending the period of time workers have to file claims."

LIFE AFTER 2020

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Pete Buttigieg's PAC, "Win the Era," announced its first endorsements Wednesday. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman reports the endorsement list includes statewide candidates in contested races and candidates running for local office.

Buttigieg's PAC aims to endorse candidates who will bring generational change into politics and who embody the values of Buttigieg's presidential campaign, which were highlighted in his "Rules of the Road."

On Wednesday Buttigieg tweeted, "We must do away with the cruelty and division that have defined this era, and elect leaders at every level who will build a better, more inclusive future for this country and the next generation."

At the statewide level, the former Democratic presidential candidate endorsed candidates running for seats that Democrats hope to flip. They include: South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham and Gina Ortiz Jones, who is running in Texas' 23rd Congressional District. Buttigieg also endorsed former supporters of his presidential campaign, including Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown, Virginia Congressman Don Beyer and New Hampshire Congresswoman Annie Kuster.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

Everytown for Gun Safety this week announced it will spend "at least $5 million" on this year's race in Arizona, adding the latest infusion of campaign cash to a key battleground state already awash in spending, says CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.

The gun control group, which expects to spend some $60 million on the cycle around the country, says it plans to support both the campaigns of Joe Biden and Mark Kelly in Arizona. Despite President Trump's 2016 victory in the state, Democrats see Arizona as a key opportunity this year. Incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally in recent polls has trailed Kelly, who rose to prominence as an advocate of tightening gun restrictions after his wife was shot in 2011.

More than $37 million future reservations have already been placed in the Senate race by other groups, per Kantar/CMAG data.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

CLEANING UP

Nearly 600,000 thousands jobs in the clean energy industry have been lost since the beginning of the pandemic, according to an analysis from the BW Research firm. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says the majority of these jobs were lost in April and total cumulative losses now represent more than double the past three years of industry-wide clean energy employment growth.

A 17% drop in clean energy employment has essentially erased all the growth the industry experienced the last few years. BW Research previously estimated that half a million or about 15% of all clean energy jobs would be lost by the end of June.

Now, forecasts predict a quarter of the clean energy workforce or roughly 850,000 jobs could disappear by the end of the second quarter. Seven out of every ten clean energy jobs lost over the last month came from energy efficiency, the largest clean energy sector. Renewable electric power generation is also experiencing steep job declines as is clean vehicle work and the clean transmission, distribution, and storage sectors. California has been hit the hardest, losing nearly 80,000 jobs or 15% of the clean energy workforce. Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Michigan have all lost more than 20,000 clean energy jobs.

VOTE-BY-MAIL

A new non-profit organization, VoteAmerica, backed by more than $5 million in initial funding, will focus on vote-by-mail efforts ahead of the November presidential election. The organization, led by voting rights activist Debra Cleaver, is also launching a new tool that lets voters request an absentee ballot online without having to interact with "hard-to-navigate government processes."

Cleaver told CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar that her goal is to proactively reach out to voters and guide them through the process. "We're not even looking at this point to increase turnout, we are just looking to maintain an acceptable level of turnout because it is entirely possible that if people don't navigate the vote-by-mail process that we will have midterm level turnout in a presidential election year," Cleaver said.

The new online tool available at voteamerica.com allows voters to check their voter registration status and apply for an absentee ballot. Cleaver explained that voter registration tools are much easier because every state except Wyoming and New Hampshire will accept the same form. But registering to vote-by-mail is a bit more complicated, Cleaver said, because it's all state and election specific. Cleaver said her organization's new tool gives voters who want a mail-in ballot "the right form and it also gives you the right mailing address. There are 10,000 mailing addresses and it is so much more complicated than voter registration."

Cleaver said another feature that her team is working on will allow voters in 15 states to give her organization permission to submit vote-by-mail request forms on their behalf. According to Cleaver, 15 states don't have an online tool for voters to submit requests for vote-by-mail and require them to fax in the form.

"No one has a fax machine," Cleaver said. "This means that they don't need to print and then mail. This seems like such a small thing but asking people to print and mail a form in 2020 is asking them to do something that is almost impossible."

She is urging states to be proactive about vote-by-mail efforts ahead of the November presidential election and thinks "it's possible that we will only be able to hold this election" via vote-by-mail. "Unless we have a vaccine by Election Day," Cleaver said, "the majority of Americans are going to vote by mail this year."

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

CALIFORNIA

Former Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia is poised to become the first Republican in over two decades to flip a congressional seat in California, according to CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar.

On Tuesday night, during a call with supporters, as results trickling in showed Garcia leading Democrat Christy Smith by more than 10 percentage points, Garcia said he "won't give a victory speech tonight." By Wednesday morning he had seen enough and declared that his message had "prevailed."

Garcia said in a statement that he's "ready to get to work right away." Smith conceded via Facebook Wednesday afternoon, and said, "While it's critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor in the May 12 special election." 

Her statement also said the attention is now on their November race, where the two are slated for a rematch.  "This is only one step in the process, and I look forward to having a vigorous debate about the issues in the upcoming November 2020 election," she wrote.

The Trump Victory campaign also declared a win Wednesday morning, saying in a statement that Garcia flipping a district that Hillary Clinton won by 7 points in 2016 is "a devastating blow to California Democrats."

The Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of California spent nearly $1 million in support of Garcia. The investments included field staff, four different unique pieces of mailers that went out to about 100,000 voters and data to target voters needed for turnout. The Republicans working on this race made over 1.4 million voter contacts in the district and the team sent over 300,000 texts to voters in CD25.

Trump Victory Spokesperson Samantha Zager said the GOP's "path to winning back the House runs through California." Zager added that "despite the best attempts of Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Democrats to rig the election in favor of their failed candidate, Californians rejected their tired socialist policies in favor of Mike Garcia." Eight House seats, including the one California's 25th congressional district will be up for re-election this November.

NEBRASKA

Kara Eastman locked up the Democratic nomination in Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District Tuesday night, and is now set to face incumbent Republican Congressman Don Bacon in a rematch of 2018. Eastman lost to Bacon by 2 points in 2018, when she beat former Congressman Brad Ashford in the primaries. Eastman faced his wife, Ann Ashford, in last night's primary.

CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee immediately showed their support for Eastman, and released an internal poll showing her beating Bacon by 1% (48% Eastman vs. 47% Bacon). The poll also shows Biden with a double digit lead over Trump in the Omaha metro-suburban district, Biden 52% vs. Trump 41%.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has previously called Eastman "Comrade Kara" in anticipation that she would be the nominee again. Eastman is backed by the Justice Democrats progressive group, who is now going 2-2 this year on their backed House candidates, with losses in Texas and Ohio primaries and wins with Eastman and Marie Newman in Illinois' 3rd. Both were previous candidates in the 2018 primaries.

WISCONSIN

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin's 7th special election Republican state senator Tom Tiffany beat Democrat Tricia Zunker by 14 points for Sean Duffy's old seat. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says just under half of votes (47.5%) were cast by mail in the election.

As of Wednesday morning, the Wisconsin Elections Commission reported that 91,057 people returned absentee ballots out of the more than 191,500 votes cast. During the April 7 election, about 71% of Wisconsinites around the state voted by mail.

The AP reported that about 56% of people in the 7th Congressional District voted by mail during that election. President Trump won the district by more than 20 points in 2016, but a University of Virginia analysis found that during the April election, the conservative supreme court nominee beat his liberal challenger by just 6 points in the district.

Tiffany told Navarro that he spoke briefly with President Trump after his Tuesday-night win. Trump endorsed Tiffany and also joined one of his tele-town halls on Monday night with RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Now a Congressman-elect, Tiffany said his priority is helping Congress with the country's reopening. "We know who is most affected by this... we need to make sure that we protect those people. We need to make sure that our frontline health care providers are protected," Tiffany said Tuesday night.

"But otherwise, for a lot of people, they can go back to doing many of the things that they used to. And the sooner we get there, the better." After Dr. Anthony Fauci's warning on reopening the country, Tiffany said while he provides a "perspective that's important," he prefers to have a variety of opinions on the issue. "When I go about my decision making, I don't entrust, I do not put all of my eggs in one basket with one person, and we shouldn't do that here either. I think Dr. Birx brings important information to the table, as well as other people," he said.

IN THE SENATE

MICHIGAN

Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan put up two TV ads Wednesday morning in his campaign for reelection, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. One of the ads is about being tough on China and the other on how to help Michigan through the pandemic. The ads are the campaign's first since February before coronavirus ramped up. Outside groups as well as the campaigns of Peters and his opponent Republican John James have spent over $16 million this year in ad reservations, according to data from Kantar/CMAG.

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