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AP file photo

Here are the main takeaways from Aetna's fourth-quarter report and investor call:

Still immensely profitable: Don't let Aetna's Obamacare losses obscure the fact that this is still a massive health insurance company that is making a lot of money from the taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as from people who have employer coverage. Aetna covers more than 23 million people.

An appeal decision on Humana is coming soon: Aetna is still weighing its options after the proposed merger was struck down. Mark Bertolini, Aetna's chief executive, said the insurer would decide whether to appeal the judge's ruling before Feb. 15, the deal's expiration date. If Aetna throws in the towel, it will have to pay Humana a $1 billion termination fee.

Aetna won't re-enter the Obamacare markets: Bertolini told investors "the intended goals of the (Affordable Care Act) have not been achieved," and that Aetna has no intention of re-entering or expanding into the marketplaces next year since the risk pools will deteriorate. But he said he was optimistic the next health care reform debate will focus on the "lack of access to affordable health care." That word — "access" — mirrors the language of House Speaker Paul Ryan and is very different from universal coverage.

Doing fine on Medicare Advantage: Aetna is highly profitable in the private alternative to traditional Medicare, proving it can do just fine without Humana, a Medicare Advantage powerhouse. Bertolini and crew also subtly mentioned that it has a "strong pipeline" for its Medicare Advantage plans offered through employers and other large groups. (Last year, the company argued that cuts to employer Medicare Advantage rates would harm seniors and the program. Nothing of the sort has happened.)

Go deeper

Axios-Ipsos poll: Trust in federal coronavirus response surges

Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Trust surged in the federal government since President Biden's inauguration when it comes to COVID-19 — but that's almost entirely because of Democrats gaining confidence, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: Americans reported the biggest improvement in their mental and emotional health since our survey began last March, and the highest trust levels since April about the federal government providing them accurate virus information and looking out for their best interests.

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

8 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

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