Congress and President Obama came to an agreement on Friday night to fund the federal government through the remainder of fiscal year 2011 (until September 30, 2011) just before a government shutdown would have gone into effect at midnight. While the negotiations did not yield approval of very many of the “defund PPACA” amendments included in the original House-passed budget proposal, it is being reported that the negotiation will result in a significant change to PPACA that is supported by NAHU. The long-term budget agreement will eliminate the “employee free choice” voucher proposal that was the brain-child of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). This provision of PPACA would have taken effect in 2014 and allowed hundreds of thousands of lower-income workers to opt out of employer-sponsored health plans and use the employer’s contribution to buy coverage through the newly created health insurance exchanges.
To avoid a government shutdown, Congress passed a separate bill, H.R. 1363, to fund the federal government for one week (until April 15). This continuing resolution was passed quickly by both the House (by a vote of 348-70) and Senate (by voice vote) after the parameters of the larger budget agreement were finalized. The details of the negotiated longer-term budget agreement are currently being placed into legislative form and will be processed by both the House and Senate this week.
The draft legislative language for the budget deal will not be available until later today or tomorrow morning, but many sources have reported that another main PPACA change included in the deal is the elimination of $2 billion in funding for the creation of private nonprofit health insurance cooperatives. House Republicans also report that the deal resulted in a guaranteed full Senate debate and vote on H.R. 2, the House-passed measure to repeal PPACA. There will be numerous required studies on the law’s affect on premiums, the number and cost of contractors hired to implement the law and “a full audit of the waivers that the Obama administration has given to firms and organizations—including unions—that can’t meet the new annual coverage limits,” and additional funding to hire more IRS agents was also eliminated.