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The Government Shutdown And The Future Of Obamacare

10/01/13

  01:45:36 pm, by kthran   , 458 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

The Government Shutdown And The Future Of Obamacare

Capitol

Effective today, the federal government is closed for business. Not totally, mind you – just selected bits and pieces not required by law to continue operations or deemed “non-essential", such as national parks, U.S. Capitol tours and free museums. And the closure will continue until Congress agrees on a spending bill.

The government shutdown occurs on the same day that open enrollment is scheduled to begin for health insurance Marketplaces offered under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare") – the law that just happens to be a huge sticking point in Congress, and a major reason for the shutdown.

The initial spending bill, approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives, included a provision to cut off Obamacare funding for the next 12 months. Ultimately, that demand was replaced by a one-year delay in the implementation of the “individual mandate", which requires individuals to carry health care coverage or pay a penalty. This final bill was quickly rejected by the Democrat-majority Senate.

So until the two parties find some middle ground on the health care reform law, the federal government will remain shut down. But not, ironically, the Marketplaces, which went live this morning (albeit not without numerous glitches).

How come? Because Obamacare is a permanent entitlement, similar to Social Security or Medicare. And as such, it isn’t subject to annual funding by Congress.

But assuming the Senate and President Obama – who would undoubtedly veto any effort to delay his signature legislative achievement – will stand firm, and House Republicans won’t back down without some type of concession from the Senate, how will this impasse eventually be resolved? The answer may lie in another provision of the House spending bill – a repeal of the tax on medical devices.

According to POLITICO, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Republicans would consider dropping the individual mandate delay if the medical device tax is repealed. The 2.3% tax, which applies to manufacturers of devices such as pacemakers, artificial hips and insulin pumps, was included in the Affordable Care Act to help pay for health coverage expansion. The House proposal would tack the cost onto the deficit.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has called the idea of a repeal “stupid", the medical device tax is unpopular with Senate Democrats from states with large medical-device industries. So if the shutdown drags out, it’s likely that the tax could ultimately serve as a means of compromise between the two parties.

If you’re looking for additional information about the government shutdown, USA Today offers a comprehensive Q&A, including its effect on the Affordable Care Act. And to see a list of what government facilities are open and closed during the shutdown, visit the Washington Post website.

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