This Lab Charges $380 for a Covid Test. Is That What Congress Had in Mind?
The $380 cash price is posted on the GS Labs website. In legal documents, it has said that it pays “approximately $20” for the rapid test itself. Mr. Erickson says the high price reflects the “premium service” they provide patients, as well as the $37 million in start-up costs associated with building their laboratory network in less than a year.
“You can book 15 minutes out with us on any given day, and get your results in 15 to 20 minutes,” Mr. Erickson said, pointing to the scarcity of testing at many drugstores. “We have a nursing hotline where you can get your results interpreted. Our pricing is one of the most expensive in the nation because we have the best service in the nation.”
Health policy experts who reviewed the GS Labs prices said that, even with the company’s investment in its service, it was hard to understand why their tests should cost eight times the Medicare rate of $41.
“This is not like neurosurgery where you might want to pay a premium for someone to have years of experience,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown who has studied coronavirus testing prices.
Even though she felt its price was exceptionally high, Ms. Corlette and other experts said GS Labs had strong legal grounds to continue charging it because of how Congress wrote the CARES Act. “Whatever price the lab puts on their public-facing website, that is what has to be paid,” she said. “I don’t read a whole lot of wiggle room in it.”
GS Labs is owned by City+Ventures, a real estate and investment firm. It started its first testing site last October and, at its peak, operated 30 locations across the country.
What’s the price of Biden’s plan? Democrats drive for zero
WASHINGTON – What will it cost to enact President Joe Biden’s massive expansion of social programs?
Congress has authorized spending up to $3.5 trillion over a decade, but Biden is prodding Democrats to fully cover the cost of the legislation — by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, negotiating the price of prescription drugs and dialing up other sources of federal revenue such as increased IRS funding.
The idea is that entire package should pay for itself.
Defending a bill not yet fully drafted, Democrats are determined to avoid a deficit financed spending spree. They are growing frustrated by the focus on the proposed $3.5 trillion spending total, arguing far too little attention is being paid to the work they are doing to balance the books. Biden on Friday said he would prefer the price tag described as “zero.”
“We pay for everything we spend,” Biden said at the White House. “It’s going to be zero. Zero.”
But the revenue side of the equation is vexing, and it’s emerged as a core challenge for Democratic bargainers as they labor to construct one of the largest legislative efforts in a generation. Their success or failure could help determine whether the bulk of Biden’s agenda becomes law and can withstand the political attacks to come.
Republicans, lockstep in opposition, aren’t waiting for the details. They’ve trained their focus on the $3.5 trillion spending ceiling set by Democrats, pillorying that sum as fiscally reckless, misguided, big government at its worst.
“The radical left is pushing in all their chips — they want to use this terrible but temporary pandemic as a Trojan horse for permanent socialism,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday. “Trillions upon trillions more in government spending when families are already facing inflation.”
Part of the problem for Democratic leaders is the lack of a consensus about which programs to fund and for how long. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., acknowledge the price will likely come down and say they have a “menu” of revenue raisers to pay for it. But without certainty on what initiatives will be included, no final decisions can be made.
“This is not about price tag,” Pelosi said Thursday. “This is about what’s in the bill.”
Biden and administration officials stress the plan is as much about fairness as dollars and cents. By taxing the wealthy and corporations, they hope to fund paid family leave and child tax credits that help those reaching for the middle class, all while adopting environmental and economic policies that help the U.S. compete with China. But the haggling over a final spending target is overshadowing the policy goals they are trying achieve.
Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a lead negotiator for House progressives, said Friday that reporters should not depict the measure as costing trillions of dollars when the accompanying proposed tax increases would cover the cost.
“I just believe that this is going to be a zero-dollar-bill — that’s the No. 1 priority,” she said.
Sharron Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank based in Washington, warned Democrats that emphasizing the $3.5 trillion figure could detract from what they are trying to achieve.
“The debate so far has been overly focused on a single number: the $3.5 trillion in gross new investments over the next ten years — including both spending increases and tax cuts — that may be included in the package,” Parrott wrote in an August blog post. “True fiscal stewardship requires a focus on the net cost of the package and, even more fundamentally, a focus on the merits of the investment and offset proposals themselves.”
What Biden is really pushing are two goals that can easily come into conflict. He wants to restore the middle class to the epicenter of economic growth, but do so without worsening the national debt or raising taxes on people earning less than $400,000 a year.
Further complicating things is that many of his spending policies are actually tax cuts for the poor and middle class, which means he is raising taxes for one group in order to cut them for another.
Democrats also have to contend with how the measures are assessed by the Congressional Budget Office, the final arbiter of how the legislation will affect the federal balance sheet.
The Democrats’ expanded child credit and dependent care credits, enacted earlier this year, are counted as costs in a CBO score. Biden wants to extend these programs as part of the budget, which he is now arguing amounts to one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in U.S. history.
“It’s reducing taxes, not increasing taxes,” Biden said Friday.
It’s not entirely clear whether Biden’s claim of “zero” cost is feasible under the 10-year outlook used by the CBO to assess the economic impacts of legislation. Biden’s own budget officials earlier this year estimated that his agenda would increase the national debt by nearly $1.4 trillion over the decade.
Biden on Friday described the multi-tiered talks with legislators as at a “stalemate.” More meetings are expected in coming days.
In the evenly split Senate, key Democratic senators such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema have qualms about the total spending. Democratic moderates are jockeying for advantage against their liberal counterparts. With time running short, Biden is asking for more patience to get the numbers right so that the votes will follow.
“This is a process,” he said. “But it’s just gonna take some time.”
New Twitter Integration Will Drive The Bitcoin Price Above $300,000
By integrating direct bitcoin payments, Twitter is paving the way for the bitcoin price to surpass $300,000.
Jack Dorsey’s social media platform Twitter has officially enabled third-party bitcoin tipping services for iOS users, giving them the ability to seamlessly pay one another across the globe, nearly instantly.
As demonstrated by Lightning Network platform Strike in a recent video, Twitter is now one of the world’s most effective platforms for the transmission of value.
“Starting today, Twitter will allow all iOS users around the globe to send tips over the Lightning Network,” Strike CEO Jack Mallers wrote in a blog post. “Twitter’s integration with the Strike API turns Twitter into one of the best remittance experiences in the world, one of the greatest global creator marketplaces in the world, one of the greatest global payment experiences in the world, one of the best global micropayment marketplaces in the world, and allows an internet communications company to interoperate with the monetary standard for the world, enabling global payments for their users.”
In a press call, Twitter also announced that the feature would be coming to Android users soon.
As Mallers indicated, it is difficult to overstate the potential of Lightning Network integration with a widespread internet communications tool. As demonstrated by Bitcoin’s ongoing supplantment of Western Union and Moneygram in El Salvador — which has already seen the permissionless monetary network cut into those third party’s revenue streams by an estimated $400 million per year — the appetite for more efficient global, digital payments systems is huge.
As users begin exchanging value with minimal fees, nearly instantaneously, across borders, without censorship through the Lightning Network on Twitter, how long will it be until more people realize that Bitcoin is the best monetary network for the internet? How long will it be until other digital platforms integrate this money directly into their tools, as Twitter has begun to? How long will it be until Bitcoin replaces the outdated systems that currently dominate remittances, influencer marketing and, eventually, digital payments as a whole?
From a certain perspective, it all seems inevitable.
If Bitcoin’s market capitalization consisted solely of the $700 billion global remittance industry, the $13.8 billion influencer marketing industry and the $5.44 trillion global digital payments market (a combined estimated value of $6.1538 trillion) through applications like Twitter’s tipping service, each bitcoin in existence (18,824,860 at the time of this writing) would be worth approximately $326,897.
As Twitter users are now finding out, Bitcoin is a better tool than the dollar for all of these industries and others. It’s hard to say exactly what the bitcoin price will be as its technology consumes virtually every form of value transaction that we know today, but the number will certainly go up.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.