Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. 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 the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

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!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

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!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Trump administration’s expansion of so-called “short-term” insurance plans is the latest step — and one of the most significant steps — in a slow and steady march away from the basic tenets of the Affordable Care Act.

The big picture: Short-term plans are especially controversial because they challenge two fundamental parts of the ACA: its minimum standards for what insurance has to cover, and its goal of making those guarantees work by pulling in a mix of healthy people.

The details: The Department of Health and Human Services finalized regulations yesterday that will let people hang on to “short-term” plans for up to three years. The Obama administration had limited them to three months.

  • Short-term plans are often cheap — a lot cheaper than ACA coverage. Their premiums can be as low as $25-$55 per month, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, compared with more than $200 for the cheapest ACA plan.
  • They’re cheap because they don’t provide much coverage. None of the plans Kaiser surveyed covered maternity, and most didn’t cover prescription drugs. Some won’t cover hospital care on a weekend.
  • That means they’re mainly attractive to people who are confident they won’t need to use their insurance — the most desirable customers in any insurance market.

Between the lines: Short-term plans on their own probably would not make a big enough dent in ACA coverage to cause a panic.

  • But these rules are part of a trend: HHS has also expanded access to association health plans and slashed funding for enrollment outreach, and Congress nullified the ACA’s individual mandate.

Taken together, all of that creates separate markets for healthy and sick people. Rather than trying to coax healthy consumers into the ACA’s markets, using their premium dollars to help subsidize guaranteed coverage for the sick, the Trump administration is giving healthy people more options outside the ACA.

What they’re saying: HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the new rules were not designed to undermine the ACA. Rising premiums already made its markets unworkable, he said.

  • Whether you think Trump is sabotaging the ACA or simply acknowledging a failure that already happened, the central truth is that it’s not trying to improve the mix of healthy and sick consumers, as the Obama administration did. It’s largely giving up on that goal.
“The Affordable Care Act is sabotaging itself."
— HHS Secretary Alex Azar

Winners:

  • UnitedHealthcare, which is the biggest provider of short-term plans in the country. (Incidentally, United’s short-term plans paid out 43% of the premiums they collected last year on medical care. ACA plans have to pay out at least 80%.)
  • Insurance brokers like eHealth, which stand to make a lot of money as healthy people look outside HealthCare.gov. eHealth’s shares were up more than 9% yesterday.
  • Healthy people who don’t end up needing much coverage.

Losers:

  • People with pre-existing conditions or who need coverage for services like prescription drugs, but who make too much money to qualify for financial assistance under the ACA.
  • The ACA, at least to some extent. HHS estimates that only about 200,000 people will switch from ACA coverage to a short-term plan.

What’s next: States can still impose additional regulations on short-term plans, and some of them surely will. That could include tighter limits on how long the policies can last, or benefit requirements.

  • Expect to see big discrepancies between red and blue states — a common refrain in health care.
  • Democratic attorneys general could also sue over the change, as is their wont.

Go deeper

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.

Biden: There won't be "American forces moving into Ukraine"

President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he does not foresee U.S. troops moving into Ukraine.

Why it matters: Biden's comments come as tensions between Russia and Ukraine persist, and a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears increasingly likely.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker