KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Mostly Untouched By Agreement To End Shutdown, Increase Debt Limit

Republican foes of the overhaul came out of the confrontation with only a tweak to income verification rules for those seeking subsidies to buy coverage on the new health insurance exchanges. The agreement created a new budget deadline, however, requiring lawmakers to return to the table to reach a long-term deficit reduction agreement by Dec. 13.

The New York Times: Republicans Back Down, Ending Crisis Over Shutdown and Debt Limit
Congressional Republicans conceded defeat on Wednesday in their bitter budget fight with President Obama over the new health care law as the House and Senate approved last-minute legislation ending a disruptive 16-day government shutdown and extending federal borrowing power to avert a financial default with potentially worldwide economic repercussions. … The shutdown sent Republican poll ratings plunging, cost the government billions of dollars and damaged the nation’s international credibility. Mr. Obama refused to compromise, leaving Republican leaders to beg him to talk, and to fulminate when he refused. For all that, Republicans got a slight tightening of income verification rules for Americans accessing new health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (Weisman and Parker, 10/16).

Los Angeles Times: Government Crisis Is Averted – For Now
Republicans had sought the confrontation in hopes that a shutdown and the threat of default would give them leverage to extract concessions from Obama on his signature healthcare law. In the end, the compromise negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made no significant changes in the Affordable Care Act. … The bill includes one change in the healthcare law: It requires the government to verify the income of those Americans who receive financial help in buying insurance through the new online healthcare marketplaces. Democrats did not object to the provision; they said it largely repeated language already in the law (Mascaro, Memoli and Bennett, 10/16).

The Washington Post: Obama Signs Bill To Raise Debt Limit, Reopen Government
An agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ended a stalemate created last month, when hard-line conservatives pushed GOP leaders to use the threat of shutdown to block a landmark expansion of federally funded health coverage. … Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was to have breakfast Thursday morning with her House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), to start a new round of talks aimed at averting another crisis. Obama repeated his vow to work with Republicans to rein in a national debt that remains at historically high levels (Montgomery and Helderman, 10/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Government Reopens After Congress Ends 16-Day Shutdown And Dodges Defaults On Debts
Obama and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill were the decisive winners in the fight, which was sparked by tea party Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who prevailed upon skeptical GOP leaders to use a normally routine short-term funding bill to “defund” the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare (10/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Passes Debt, Budget Deal
The deal was opposed by the conservative political groups Heritage Action and Club for Growth, which both urged Republicans to vote against it because it did nothing significant to roll back the health law. But conservative Republicans let the deal move forward without delay in the Senate, while vowing to fight on in future battles. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a leader in the conservative's "defund Obamacare" strategy, blamed the defeat on party leaders. "Once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people," he said outside the Senate chamber, as Senate leaders announced the deal inside. A key question is whether wounds from the fight will change the political and policy dynamics when Congress tries to meet the January deadline for funding the government for the remainder of fiscal 2014 and the February deadline for again raising the debt limit (Hook and Peterson, 10/17).

Politico: ACA Backers OK With Income Verification In Debt Deal
Republicans are getting a single Obamacare crumb in the spending deal — an income verification measure that Democratic proponents of the law are willing to swallow. It’s the only tweak to the Affordable Care Act in the agreement forged by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to end the shutdown and lift the debt ceiling. The requirement stipulates that the HHS secretary certify there’s a way to check that Americans collecting income-based health insurance subsidies are eligible, essentially that they are earning what they claim (Cunningham, 10/17).

Politico: Budget Negotiations Begin
A key element of the deal reached to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling is that both chambers must go to a budget conference. The conference committee will be tasked with agreeing to budget numbers and crafting a bipartisan deal to address long-term deficit reduction. … The committee will include ten Senate Republicans and twelve Senate Democrats, Murray said. The conference committee has until Dec. 13 to reach an agreement (Gibson, 10/16).

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