Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Some Republicans are pushing to further expand short-term health plans. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

A bill pending on Capitol Hill would move the individual market another step further towards having separate, parallel marketplaces for sick and healthy people. A legislative push – which appears to be backed by some in the White House – would allow short-term plans to both be available for up to a year and to have guaranteed renewability.

Why it matters: While it's unclear how much of an impact this would have beyond what the Trump administration has already proposed, the bill shows that thought's being given to the legal parameters of what the administration can do. It would go a step further in undermining the structure of the Affordable Care Act than the administration has, with the added benefit of taking potential legal trouble off the table.

What the bill, which was introduced by Sen. John Barrasso, does:

  • Redefines short-term plans as lasting up to 364 days, which the administration has already proposed.
  • Gives applicants the option of selecting plans with "guaranteed renewability," which means that the plan wouldn't be allowed to drop the enrollee at the end of the coverage period. Of course, it could still raise premiums, especially if the enrollee became more expensive to cover.
"A short-term plan that’s renewable is frankly not a short-term plan. It’s sort of semantic gymnastics at that point. But, that’s not the point here. The point is to create an unregulated market that can make an end run around the ACA."
— Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation

Our thought bubble: Something like this doesn't have much chance of passing Congress, even if it's packaged into other must-pass legislation. But it could complicate ACA market stabilization efforts, which conservatives are very uncomfortable with.

A description of the bill sent to Axios makes it clear that the point of the legislation is to sort individual market enrollees based on health status:

  • "This policy change would essentially create two parallel markets. The ACA market would still accept everyone and rate policies without regard for risk. This would make it most attractive to unhealthy and lower-income people receiving subsidies."
  • "The new short-term policies would offer coverage that was non-compliant but a much cheaper option, making them attractive to healthier and younger people who find the ACA policies too expensive."
  • Critics say that this will drive up premiums for sick people, effectively undermining the ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Between the lines: From a policy standpoint, it's hard to say how much of an impact this bill would have on the marketplace. The administration has already proposed expanded access to short-term plans on its own.

  • "I assume the idea is that short-term plans become more attractive to consumers if renewable. They essentially just become skinny plans that can be renewed for multiple terms," said Tim Jost, a law professor emeritus at Washington and Lee and an ACA supporter.
  • But it's an open question as to how many people the renewability aspect would attract that wouldn't otherwise choose a short-term plan.

Yes, but: The description of the bill also clearly states its purpose is to keep future administrations from reverting back to a narrower definition of short-term plans. And there are additional legal advantages to passing a bill.

  • "That would immunize the Administration’s administrative proposal against legal challenges and prevent a future Administration from reverting to a more sensible definition of 'short-term'” plans," said Brooking's Matthew Fiedler. "That would be a very big deal."
  • It also indicates that the Trump administration has defined a limit on its ability to expand access to non ACA-compliant insurance plans. "The reason these short-term plans are exempt from the ACA’s rules is because they are of limited duration, meaning they’re not renewable," Levitt said. "The fact that the White House is floating Congressional action suggests they don’t think they can do it administratively. "

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!