May 9, 2017

Tennessee Blues will fill state's ACA coverage hole

Andrew Harnik / AP

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee will sell health plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange next year in the 16 counties near Knoxville that were left without an insurer after Humana bailed, Sarah Kliff at Vox reports. But those plans could be expensive. J.D. Hickey, CEO of the Tennessee Blues, told the state insurance commissioner that his team will price in the risks surrounding the cost-sharing subsidies, individual mandate and health insurance tax.

However, Hickey mentioned that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee's financial performance has improved so far in 2017 after shouldering major losses in the first few years of the ACA exchanges. Financial documents obtained by Axios show the company produced a small overall profit in 2016, although it still had a $14.7 million gross loss on its individual-market plans.

The bottom line: This is an important development and again shows why the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are vital to the ACA individual marketplaces. But it also shows that the unclear signals from the Trump administration about whether it will pay insurers' subsidies, and whether it will enforce the individual mandate, are already forcing insurers to charge more for coverage.

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 35 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."