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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Today is the beginning of the second Affordable Care Act enrollment season under President Trump. And things are … surprisingly normal.

The big picture: The ACA has been in a state of upheaval since Trump’s inauguration. Some of the changes Republicans made during that upheaval will likely weaken the law. At this moment, though, the watchword for insurers is stability. Things may not be ideal, but at least they’re largely settled.

What they’re saying: “From a consumer perspective, the experience should be pretty good,” said Kelley Turek, a policy specialist at America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s leading trade organization.

  • Technical testing with HealthCare.gov has gone well, Turek said, and back-end systems that coordinate between enrollees and insurers seem to be in good shape.

This will be the first enrollment period in which Trump’s ACA agenda is fully in place.

  • People will be able to buy skimpy, inexpensive “short-term” plans as an alternative to comprehensive, potentially subsidized ACA coverage. They won't be sold through the ACA's exchanges, but will compete through brokers and other websites.
  • The individual mandate won’t be in effect.
  • Federal outreach funding, and grants to “navigators” who helped people compare their options, have been slashed.

What we’re watching: Insurers generally feel that they’ve already calibrated for those policy changes, mainly through sky-high premium increases a year ago. This upcoming enrollment period will determine whether they got that balance right.

  • Before the ACA’s exchanges had opened, losing the individual mandate seemed like a disaster. Its actual disappearance was greeted more with a shrug. Real-world experience raised questions about whether it had enough “teeth,” Turek said.
  • Short-term plans could siphon healthy consumers away from ACA coverage, making it more expensive for those who remain. But they could also be a reasonable option for people who can’t afford ACA coverage, Turek said, as long as they know what they’re buying.

The bottom line: The ACA may not be working as Democrats had initially hoped, but it’s not dead, and for now it seems to have settled into a scaled-back status quo that’s sustainable.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

17 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

17 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."