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Presidential debate plans teeter, as Pelosi probes Trump fitness for office

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled plans Thursday to probe Donald Trump’s capacity to govern after he contracted Covid-19, as the US president unspooled a rant against critics and threw the debate schedule with Joe Biden into turmoil.

With just 26 days until the November 3 election, Washington’s top Democrat took the extraordinary step of proposing a commission to probe Trump’s fitness for the job — and whether he needs removal under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.

But with tensions building over Trump’s diagnosis and questions about his judgment, his doctor gave him the green light to resume public activities this weekend, opening the door for Trump’s return to the campaign trail.

“Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the president’s safe return to public engagement at that time,” Trump’s physician Sean Conley said in a statement.

Having been held back from campaigning, Trump raged on Fox Business television, insulting Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris as a “monster,” branding illegal immigrants “rapists,” and urging indictments of Biden and former president Barack Obama.

And in remarks that caught Pelosi’s attention, the 74-year-old Trump quipped that he beat Covid because “I am a perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young.”

Pelosi warned that Trump is suffering from a “disassociation from reality (that) would be funny if it weren’t so deadly.”

Senior House Democrat James Clyburn cautioned on CNN that Trump was exhibiting “very erratic behavior” that has drawn public concern.

As they questioned the president’s claim to be rapidly recovering from Covid-19 and Pelosi announced her upcoming probe, Trump fired back on Twitter.

“Crazy Nancy is the one who should be under observation,” he wrote. “They don’t call her Crazy for nothing!”

– Anxious times – 

Trump’s rejection of next week’s debate because organizers decided to go virtual due to his bout with Covid-19 upended the calendar of debates — usually a set piece series of three that candidates arrange well in advance.

After back and forth between Trump and Biden’s campaign, it appeared likely that only two debates will take place in total, with the next being October 22 and the one scheduled for Miami on October 15 now scrapped.

With Biden surging in opinion polls and able to travel — the veteran Democrat visited Arizona Thursday where he and Harris launched a campaign bus tour — these are anxious times for Trump.

He is still recovering from his three-night hospital stint, while the White House itself has become a viral hotspot, with dozens of people close to Trump testing positive.

Trump’s decision to boycott next week’s debate, which would have been in town hall format with audience members asking questions, will mean missing a rare opportunity to try and best Biden in a direct televised confrontation.

Trump told Fox Business that the bipartisan debate commission’s decision to make the debate a virtual affair was “not acceptable.”

He accused organizers of trying to “protect”

Rural Hospitals Teeter on Financial Cliff as COVID Medicare Loans Come Due

David Usher is sitting on $1.7 million he’s scared to spend.

The money lent from the federal government is meant to help hospitals and other health care providers weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet some hospital administrators have called it a payday loan program that is now, brutally, due for repayment at a time when they still need help.

Coronavirus cases have “picked up recently and it’s quite worrying,” said Usher, chief financial officer at the 12-bed Edwards County Medical Center in rural western Kansas. Usher said he would like to use the money to build a negative-pressure room, a common strategy to keep contagious patients apart from those in the rest of the hospital.

But he’s not sure it’s safe to spend that cash. Officially, the total repayment of the loan is due this month. Otherwise, according to the loan’s terms, federal regulators will stop reimbursing the hospitals for Medicare patients’ treatments until the loan is repaid in full.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has not yet begun trying to recoup its money, with the coronavirus still affecting communities nationwide, but hospital leaders fear it may come calling for repayment any day now.

Hospital leaders across the country said there has been no communication from CMS on whether or when they will adjust the repayment deadline. A CMS spokesperson had not responded to questions by press time.

“It’s great having the money,” Usher said. “But if I don’t know how much I get to keep, I don’t get to spend the money wisely and effectively on the facility.”

Usher took out the loan from Medicare’s Accelerated and Advance Payments program. The program, which existed long before the pandemic, was generally used sparingly by hospitals faced with emergencies such as hurricanes or tornadoes. It was expanded for use during the coronavirus pandemic — part of billions approved in federal relief funds for health care providers this spring.

A full repayment of a hospital’s loan is technically due 120 days after it was received. If it is not paid, Medicare will stop reimbursing claims until it recoups the money it is owed — a point spelled out in the program’s rules. Medicare reimburses nearly $60 billion in payments to health care providers nationwide under Medicare’s Part A program, which makes payments to hospitals.

More than 65% of the nation’s small, rural hospitals — many of which were operating at a deficit before the pandemic — jumped at the Medicare loans when the pandemic hit because they were the first funds available, said Maggie Elehwany, former vice president of government affairs for the National Rural Health Association.

CMS halted new loan applications to the program at the end of April.

“The pandemic has simply gone on longer than anyone anticipated back in March,” said Joanna Hiatt Kim, vice president of payment policy and analysis for the American Hospital Association. The trade association sent a letter to CMS in late July asking for a delay in the recoupment.

On Monday, the