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The Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing reduction payments saga continues: The Trump administration ended the payments in 2017, Congress failed to fund them, and now 3 judges have said the government is still on the hook for the payments.

The big picture: "If their decisions stand, insurers could recover roughly $12 billion a year, every year, until Congress intervenes to stop the bleeding," Nicholas Bagley writes in the Incidental Economist.

  • While Congress never appropriated the funds, which was the basis of a different lawsuit, the ACA still required the U.S. government to pay the subsidies to insurers.
  • When the payments stopped, insurers sued, and the cases are ongoing in the Court of Federal Claims.

The bottom line: It's looking unlikely that any final decision, if insurers win, will take into account that insurers have made up for the lost subsidy money by raising premiums and, thus, premium subsidies — the ACA's other form of government assistance.

  • The 3 judges have either said or suggested that this won't impact their decision.
  • That means that the possibility of insurers participating on exchanges getting a multi-billion dollar windfall has increased.

Go deeper: Health insurer loses $73 million after Trump halts ACA subsidies

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
4 hours ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

4 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.