Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration will enforce the Affordable Care Act, at least against the most brazen attempts to flout it: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday told insurers and state regulators in Idaho that they cannot proceed with their effort to sell individual insurance plans that don’t comply with key ACA requirements.

Yes, but: Administration officials made clear that they were barring Idaho’s plan not because it would undermine the ACA, but because it’s illegal — and that they want to change that.

The details: "The ACA remains the law and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a letter to state officials.

  • Idaho’s plan has drawn widespread criticism from legal experts since it was announced in January, but the federal government hadn’t taken a position on it until yesterday.

Why it matters: This is bigger than Idaho. It was the first state to try this, but if CMS had signed off, it would not have been the last. In fact, state lawmakers in Iowa voted to advance a similar idea just a few hours before CMS released its verdict on Idaho’s effort.

  • The Trump administration is still not a friend of the ACA. Verma’s letter opens by saying that the law is “failing.”
  • ACA supporters had questioned whether there would be any limit to the administration's efforts to undermine the law. Well, here it is.

The catch: “We believe that, with certain modifications, these state-based plans could be legally offered [as] short-term, limited-duration plans. I encourage you to continue to engage in a dialogue with my staff regarding this and other potential options,” Verma wrote in her Idaho letter.

How it works: The Department of Health and Human Services, acting on President Trump’s instructions, has already said that consumers can keep bare-bones, short-term health plans for up to a year.

  • HHS secretary Alex Azar told reporters yesterday that HHS also wants consumers to be able to renew those plans to for more than one year.
  • The department has asked for public comments about whether it already has the ability to make that happen.
  • “We would like to be able to do renewability of these plans,” Azar said. If it turns out HHS can’t do that alone, “we are working with Congress to see if we might be able to get clearer authority.”

The bottom line: A system in which “short-term plans” last for a year, and can be renewed for multiple years, would put them on the same footing as traditional insurance, and would not be much different from the system Idaho was pursuing.

Both would likely end up splitting healthy people into a parallel market and further limiting the ACA’s appeal to poor, sick people.

What’s next: If HHS ultimately decides it has the ability to let people renew short-term plans for multiple years, then the basic structure Idaho attempted could come back pretty quickly. If it needs to get that authority from Congress, that’ll be a lot harder.

Go deeper

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 10,695,608 — Total deaths: 516,225 — Total recoveries — 5,481,526Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 2,686,582 — Total deaths: 128,062 — Total recoveries: 729,994 — Total tested: 32,827,359Map.
  3. Federal government: Trump says he still thinks coronavirus will "just disappear" at some point, supports another round of direct payments to Americans.
  4. Public health: Thanks to coronavirus, your home is now your gymFormer FDA chief says 500,000 Americans may be contracting coronavirus a day.
  5. States: Georgia and Arizona report record new coronavirus cases — California shuts down bars and indoor dining for most residents.
  6. 1 ⚽️ thing: 6 players test positive for coronavirus before MLS comeback tournament.
Updated 48 mins ago - Health

U.S. daily coronavirus cases top 50,000 for first time

A medical technologist processes test samples for the coronavirus at a lab in Tampa, Florida, on June 25. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

A record 50,655 tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the United States on Wednesday, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Driving the news: The pandemic is accelerating across the U.S., with the Sun Belt being hit particularly hard. Daily coronavirus case records were reported on Wednesday in Texas (8,076), Arizona (4,878), Georgia (2,946), North Carolina (1,843) and Tennessee (1,806).

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden outraises Trump again with record $141 million June haul

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at Philadelphia City Hall in Pennsylvania in June. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party raised $141 million in June, his campaign announced on Wednesday night.

Why it matters: It's the most the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has raised in a month. It's also more than the record $131 million President Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee raised last month.