Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. 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 Axios Closer 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!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

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 Axios Sports. 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!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

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 Axios Des Moines

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 Axios Tampa Bay

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!

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!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Greg Ruben / Axios

Republicans on the Hill are taking a close look at an idea they believe could actually expand health coverage: just enroll everyone in a health plan unless they opt out.

Hill staffers and conservative health wonks have been tossing the idea around for awhile as a way to replace Obamacare's individual mandate while continuing to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions — something that becomes too expensive without healthy people to cover the costs. Many now point to auto-enrollment as one of the best ways to cover more people without bleeding federal dollars.

The goal: By automatically enrolling people into a basic insurance plan, some Republicans hope to create a new system where coverage is the default for everyone. The idea is a feature of some of the leading Obamacare replacement plans, including a bill by Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Pete Sessions and a white paper by the American Enterprise Institute.

Trump's HHS nominee: Tom Price included auto-enrollment in employer coverage in his Obamacare replacement plan, another sign the idea could gain traction.

There's no consensus that this is the way forward, but "there's a lot of work being done to look into it," said a senior GOP aide.

How it would work: People who don't get health insurance from another source, like an employer, would be enrolled in a bare-bones plan.

It would have the same value as the financial help uninsured people would get — meaning the federal government would cover the cost of the premium, so enrollees would get coverage for free. But they could buy better coverage if they want it.

The catch: This could be a workable policy idea, but it's a political and logistical nightmare. While some Republicans are on board with the idea already, it's going to take some clever messaging to convince small-government conservatives an automatic enrollment policy is less intrusive than an insurance mandate.

The key, supporters say, is to cover the costs. As long as that's done, "it's not viewed as a harmful mandate, because there's no consequence" to someone who doesn't enroll, said the GOP aide.

Here are some outstanding questions and concerns, raised by both liberal and conservative health wonks:

  • Figuring out who to automatically enroll is an insane task. Basically, it would require coming up with a list of everyone in the country and then comparing that to the list of everyone who has private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Private insurers have to agree to participate. Figuring out how it actually works — and how insurers can turn a profit — would be complicated. "You'd have to find a way to make sure, if there's more than one insurer, that the actual expenses of covering these upper-end costs for people pretty much balances out with a reasonable profit margin," said Joe Antos, a conservative health economist and a member of the Axios board of experts.
  • Liberals still think the mandate is the better option. "I think more people would opt out of enrollment than would take a fine with the individual mandate," said Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economics professor who consulted on Obamacare. But "it's better than nothing."
  • The default health plan would be very skimpy coverage. Deductibles would probably be at least $10,000, and many services wouldn't be covered — meaning people would have to pay for a lot of medical costs themselves. "I don't think that's going to fly with the American public," since high deductibles are already one of the biggest complaints about Obamacare, Gruber said.
  • It probably would help keep the individual market balanced. That's not nothing — it's better than a market meltdown. But don't expect the customers to be happy with what they're getting. "The best case scenario is a stabilized market for shitty insurance," Gruber said.
  • This isn't a money-saving idea for the government. At least not if it's going to work, Antos said. "It's a way of stabilizing the individual market. But if it's also going to be used as a way to save billions of dollars, then it's not going to save the individual market."

Our thought bubble: This seems to solve the GOP's biggest problems, but if there's a reason it doesn't go anywhere, it's because not enough members know about it or understand it.

Go deeper

Teachers across the U.S. protest laws restricting racism lessons

Thousands of teachers and other educators held protests across the U.S. Saturday against the actions of "at least 15 Republican-led states" that aim to restrict teaching about racism in class, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: There were demonstrations in at least 22 cities for the "Day of Action" to raise awareness about moves to limit students' exposure to critical race theory, which links racial discrimination to the nation's foundations and legal system, per Axios' Russell Contreras.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

Lawsuit challenging Houston Methodist's COVID vaccine mandate dismissed

Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit brought by 117 Houston Methodist staff over the hospital's policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: This is the first federal court ruling on a coronavirus vaccine mandate. Attorney Jared Woodfill, representing the plaintiffs, told KHOU 11 it's "the first battle in a long fight," as he vowed to file another lawsuit soon.

G7 leaders to announce plan to phase out gasoline cars

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks next to President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England, on Saturday. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

G7 leaders are set to announce Sunday a range of measures to tackle climate change, including "ending almost all direct government support" for fossil fuels and phasing out gasoline and diesel cars.

Driving the news: The plan was outlined in a British government announcement Saturday, which states that the leaders will also agree to halting "all unabated coal as soon as possible."