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Data: Urban Institute; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Emergency doctors — which are at the center of the surprise billing debate — saw their compensation go up more than any other physician specialty between 2013 and 2017.

Why it matters: This translates into higher health care costs, which we all pay for through our taxes, premiums and out-of-pocket spending.

By the numbers: Overall, doctors saw a 16.1% pay raise in this period — with a handful of specialties leading the way.

The big picture: Surprise medical bills obviously hit their recipients hardest, but economists argue that they also improve doctors' leverage over insurers.

  • A recent study in Health Affairs found that four specialties that are often out-of-network — anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists and assistant surgeons — raise employer insurance spending by 3.4%.

Yes, but: Other specialties that don't frequently surprise bill are also seeing higher compensation, meaning there are plenty of other factors involved.

The bottom line: "Obviously we all want clinicians to be well-compensated, for what is a challenging job requiring a great deal of training and skill, but if physician income constantly rises relative to the [average] patient, physician services become unaffordable," said Dan O'Neill, a fellow at the National Academy of Medicine.

Go deeper: Surprise medical bills inflate everyone's health insurance premiums

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Who Biden might put on the Supreme Court

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, Democrats are compiling lists of Black women they want Joe Biden to consider for the bench if he's elected — with an eye toward people from outside the traditional legal establishment.

Why it matters: Supreme Court appointments are one of the most consequential parts of any president's legacy, and a President Biden would need to find picks who could try to wrangle liberal victories from a solid conservative majority.

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