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Health insurer Wellmark met with federal officials last month regarding a pending rule. Photo: Tetra Images via Getty Images

John Clendenin and Scott Sundstrom, the top lawyers at Wellmark, last month held a teleconference with Trump administration health policy officials and an assistant to Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to discuss pending rules on short-term health plans, according to lobbying meeting records. Wellmark and Rounds' office did not immediately answer questions about what was discussed.

Between the lines: New regulations on short-term health plans are expected to be released any day now. Large insurers like Wellmark have advocated for easing restrictions on short-term plans — and could be getting their wish.

Some background: The Obama administration tinkered with short-term plans in 2016, saying they can only be sold for fewer than three months. Companies used to sell short-term plans for up to a year.

  • Short-term plans don't meet basic Affordable Care Act requirements. They don't have to offer minimum benefits, and they can charge people more based on pre-existing conditions.
  • Insurers like selling the profitable plans because they appeal to people who need interim coverage and to healthier people who want lower premiums.
  • Sales of short-term plans have skyrocketed in the ACA era because many people prefer the cheaper premiums despite the bare-bones coverage.
  • But policy analysts say the plans hurt the ACA individual marketplaces because they siphon healthier people out, and they may mislead people into thinking the coverage is more robust than it actually is.

Between the lines: Wellmark, a large Blue Cross Blue Shield company, sells health insurance in Iowa and South Dakota but has been wishy-washy about participating in the ACA marketplaces.

Wellmark said last week it would start selling ACA plans again in Iowa, and it'll be worth exploring how its decision relates to what is expected to be a deregulation of short-term health plans.

Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.