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Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray got good news from CBO. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Congressional Budget Office delivered some good news to Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray: Their bill to stabilize the Affordable Care Act would save the government nearly $4 billion over the next decade.

Between the lines: To reach that conclusion, CBO had to settle a more in-the-weeds question that nevertheless carried dramatic implications for the entire ACA stabilization effort — and its answer there was also good news for Alexander and Murray.

What CBO said: The budget office had three pieces of good news for Alexander and Murray, and for the broader push to stabilize the ACA:

  • Their bill would save the federal government $3.8 billion over the next decade.
  • Although conservatives have decried the bill as an "insurer bailout," CBO expects that insurance companies would actually make payments to the federal government worth $3.1 billion. (That's because the government would get some of the rebates the ACA makes insurers pay to customers if they spend too much on overhead.)
  • The bill would save money, in large part, because CBO said its core provision — a commitment to fund the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies — wouldn't cost anything.

The issue: This is a wonky point, but a make-or-break one for the ACA stabilization effort.

  • Because the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies have been in place for years, CBO has already incorporated the cost of that program into its baseline of what the federal government spends each year.
  • But it wasn't clear whether CBO would change that assumption once President Trump stopped making the payments. If the money is no longer going out the door, would CBO keep counting it as money going out the door?
  • If CBO had changed those assumptions, Alexander-Murray could have come with a price tag of more than $20 billion.
  • But CBO didn't adjust its baselines around Trump's decision. It said it's still accounting for this program the same way it did before — and that keeps the "price" of Alexander-Murray's central provision at $0.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
6 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.