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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

State Department to set up new cyber bureau to combat hack attacks

Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks on the challenges during an October conference in Quito, Ecuador. Photo:y Felipe Stanley/Agencia Press South/Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced Monday plans for the State Department to create a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy.

Why it matters: The establishment of the bureau and plans for a new envoy to oversee critical and emerging technology come after a series significant hack attacks and other online crimes, notably ransomware assaults on U.S. infrastructure.

Biden rejects Trump's latest executive privilege claims

Photo: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Monday rejected two more of former President Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot requested, CNN first reported.

Why it matters: Trump's legal team is seeking to block some of the panel's requests for records by invoking executive privilege, which can allow presidents and their aides to sidestep congressional scrutiny. The Biden administration has maintained that it will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Amazon warehouse workers in New York file petition to hold unionization vote

Amazon workers and their supporters rally outside the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Brooklyn, New York City, after filing a petition requesting an election to form a union. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers in New York City filed a petition on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote on unionization.

Why it matters: The move comes six months after an organizing effort was defeated at Amazon's distribution center in Alabama.