Funding the Government – Apocalypse Maybe!

Ryan Ball, OPGA Government Relations

Both the House and Senate are on President’s Day recess this week after all-night sessions in the House last week debating HR 1, the continuing resolution (CR) funding the government through August.  Debate culminated with 235 Republicans voting to pass the bill, 235-189, at 4:40 a.m. on Saturday.

 

The grueling, and often contentious, debate lasted nearly five days and would cut $60 billion from current requested levels.  Programs ranging from the Department of Defense’s sponsorship of NASCAR to funding of NASA were debated as part of the cuts, but many of the most explosive debates were saved for de-funding the Affordable Care Act. House leadership opted not to include Obamacare de-funding initiatives in the initial CR, but offered several amendments to cut funding for the law during the floor debate.

Successful amendments include cutting off funding for salaries of any employee of HHS, IRS, or other federal workers that seek to comply with, or enforce provisions of, the Affordable Care Act.  Attempts to de-fund Planned Parenthood and to eliminate the “medical loss ratio,” which requires insurance companies to spend a guaranteed percentage of their revenues on patient care, were also successful.  If implemented, these funding cuts will essentially kill the Affordable Care Act before it starts by preventing many of the O&P friendly insurance-related provisions of the ACA from being enforced.   Losing lifetime and annual coverage cap exclusions, barring preexisting condition exclusions and the loss of an estimated 30 million new patients nationwide, would be very detrimental to the future of the O&P industry.

Obviously, Senate leaders have serious reservations with the House version of this bill; they have outlined large cuts in their own continuing resolution and are scheduled to begin debate on Feb. 28.  The current spending agreement, passed during the lame-duck session in December, is scheduled to expire on March 4, leaving just a few weeks to reach a bi-partisan deal funding the government through August. If the Senate is able to pass its version of the continuing resolution next week, it will go to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. The bill will then need to be voted on again by both houses before President Obama can sign the funding extension.

As you can see, Congress is running out of time. On Friday, Minority Leader Pelosi introduced another temporary continuing resolution, funding government through March 31, to allow additional time for an agreement, but Speaker Boehner has said any short-term funding would also have to cut spending from current levels.  Many in Washington are preparing for a government shutdown if the House, Senate and White House cannot come to an agreement before the March 4 deadline. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/us/politics/20congress.html?_r=1&ref=politics

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NEWS YOU CAN USE

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Arizona Gains Waiver to cut 280,000 Medicaid Beneficiaries

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