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AP file photo

That's the message of a new analysis by S&P Global, which acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act marketplaces are "fragile" but undercuts the narrative that they're falling apart. The two key sentences:

  • The financial results for Blue Cross Blue Shield plans from 2016, and the enrollment for this year, "show that the ACA individual market is not in a 'death spiral.'"
  • "Every time something new (and potentially disruptive) is thrown into the works, it impedes the individual market's path to stability."

That might be a surprise to everyone who's heard of the double-digit rate hikes for most Obamacare plans last year. But the S&P Global analysts said they've always expected a "five-year path to stability," and that "2016 was year 3." It predicted that there will be more rate hikes for next year, but "at a far lower clip."

Yes, but: That puts them at odds with the Department of Health and Human Services, which circulated statistics earlier Friday showing that premiums and deductibles have been rising since 2014, and insurers have been bailing out.

What insurers will need: Clarity on whether they'll be paid for the Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies, whether the Trump administration will enforce the individual mandate, and whether it will advertise next year's enrollment. "If insurers are uneasy regarding the future of the market, they may have to decide between adding an 'uncertainty buffer' to their pricing or — worst case — exiting the exchanges altogether."

Go deeper

9 mins ago - World

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.