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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal appeals court today shot down insurance companies’ claim that the federal government owes them about $12 billion from an Affordable Care Act program.

The intrigue: Insurers lost billions of dollars when Congress put the brakes on a program that had been designed to help stabilize the ACA in its early years. Those losses contributed to driving some new insurers out of business — but that’s just the way it is, the court said today.

The details: The ACA included a “risk corridors” program to help insurers adjust to a new and hard-to-predict market.

  • Insurers whose early ACA experience turned out better than they had expected would pay into a fund, and that fund would then pay out to insurers whose experience was worse than they expected.
  • As people actually started signing up for coverage, more insurers were eligible to take money out of the program than to pay into it. Initially, the government had been making up the difference on its own. But then Congress said the program couldn’t pay out more than it took in from insurers.
  • Insurers sued, saying the government was reneging on a debt it owed them. There’s a lot of money at stake — the shortfall is now at roughly $12 billion, according to court documents.

The latest: The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled today that Congress intended to limit risk corridors payments, and the Obama administration acted appropriately when it carried out those commands, so insurers cannot collect.

The impact: This has gone on long enough that insurers have mostly made up the difference through higher premiums. But the inability to collect from the program was a contributing factor to the deaths of several new insurance co-ops, also established under Obamacare.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

51 mins ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.