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Some states have stopped paying for public retirees' health care benefits in response to rising health care costs and squeezed budgets, the Wall Street Journal reports.

By the numbers: There's about a $600 billion gap between what states have promised retirees — mostly in health benefits — and what they have actually saved up, according to government data compiled by Eaton Vance Corp.

The big picture: The decisions are separate from pension benefits. It's easier legally to cut retirees' health care benefits than pensions, which drives some of these decisions.

  • North Carolina will no longer pay workers' health benefits once they retire, starting with new workers hired in 2021.
  • Kansas has asked retirees to pay their entire premiums, which have jumped to as much as $1,000 a month. And Iowa has capped its flagship university's contribution to retirees' health care.
  • When Kansas made these changes beginning in 2017, three-quarters of enrollees dropped out. And the state's retiree health care liability dropped from $6.1 million to $508,000.

My thought bubble: The problem of rising health care costs is even more dire at the federal level, but states — unlike the federal government — must balance their budgets.

Go deeper: There is another pre-existing conditions problem — for seniors

Go deeper

Acting Capitol Police chief: Officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared remarks for a House hearing on Thursday that officers in her department were "unsure of when to use lethal force" during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Capitol Police did deploy lethal force on Jan. 6 — shooting and killing 35-year-old Ashli Babbit — but have faced questions over why officers appeared to be less forceful against pro-Trump rioters than participants in previous demonstrations, including those over Black Lives Matter and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

United CEO is confident people will feel safe traveling again by 2022

Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

The risks and rewards of charging state-backed hackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week’s stunning indictment of three North Korean hackers laid bare both the advantages and drawbacks of the U.S. government’s evolving strategy of using high-profile prosecutions to publicize hostile nation-state cyber activities.

Why it matters: Criminal charges can help the U.S. establish clear norms in a murky and rapidly changing environment, but they may not deter future bad behavior and could even invite retaliation against U.S. intelligence officials.