Washington Update

Federal Government Shuts Down Over Efforts to Defund the Affordable Care Act— Health Insurance Marketplaces Are Open for Business

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At 12:01 a.m. on October 1, the federal government officially shut down. As Politico described it, “The partisan gridlock in Washington proved insurmountable, as House Republicans continue to insist on changing, delaying or defunding Obamacare as the price for keeping the government open, while Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama firmly rejected that position.” Both chambers stayed in session until the early morning hours to be available to consider viable options to keep the government open but it was all to no avail.

The House has been determined to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) having voted more than 40 times to strip it but each time they ran into a brick wall with the democratically controlled Senate. In a meeting of the top four leaders in September Democrats emphasized that any bill with a defund-the-health-law provision would be “dead on arrival,” both in the Senate and at the White House.

In a last ditch effort to kill the ACA before the October 1 enrollment start date for Health Insurance Marketplaces (also called health insurance exchanges), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that the defunding provision would be attached as a rider to the continuing resolution (CR) needed to fund the federal government, it was passed by the House but was immediately rejected by the Senate.

Right before the end of the fiscal year, September 30, when it became apparent that the Senate would not accept a CR with language to defund the ACA, House Republicans passed a bill that would allow the leadership to appoint conferees to a House-Senate conference committee to work out an agreement on government funding. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would not assign Senate members. Soon after Senator Reid’s statement, the Senate voted on the House bill to assign conferees and it was rejected along party lines.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a critic of the House’s efforts to defund the ACA said he would be willing to sign a clean spending bill if given the chance, “Yeah because we can’t win. That’s going to happen sooner or later,” McCain said.

Until such time when a compromise bill is agreed upon by the House and Senate, the federal government will remain closed, except for essential personnel and the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces are open and fully operational; information on the insurance marketplaces is available here.

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