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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

5 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.