KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Senate Leaders Close In On Deal That Leaves Health Law Intact

The agreement could include a one-year delay in the health law's reinsurance tax, as well as a measure to tighten income verification standards for qualifying for health insurance subsidies.

The New York Times: Senators Near Fiscal Deal, But The House Is Uncertain
But while both Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, praised the progress that was made in the Senate, it was already clear that the most conservative members of the House were not going to go along quietly with a plan that does not accomplish their goal from the outset of this two-week-old crisis: dismantling the president’s health care law. … Senate Republicans had pushed for an agreement that included a provision to delay or repeal a tax on medical devices, but that became a sticking point in the negotiations and will almost certainly be excluded from the final deal, Senate aides said. But the deal is likely to include a one-year delay of another tax associated with the Affordable Care Act known as the reinsurance tax, which employers pay. … Another Republican-backed measure likely to be in the deal would require tighter income verification standards for people who receive subsidies under the new health care law. Under the new guidelines, the Health and Human Services secretary would have to certify that the department can verify income eligibility (Shear and Peters, 10/14).

The Washington Post: Senate Leaders Within Striking Distance Of Deal To End Shutdown, Raise Debt Limit
The emerging agreement would extend the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority until Feb. 7, reopen the government and fund federal agencies through mid-January, according to aides and lawmakers familiar with the negotiations. … The framework under consideration includes only minor changes to President Obama’s signature health-care law, falling well short of defunding it or delaying major provisions as conservative Republicans initially sought. Instead, Republicans would get only new safeguards to ensure that people who receive federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under the law are eligible to receive them. But talks were hung up over another provision, aides and lawmakers said: a demand by Democrats to delay the law’s “belly button tax,” a levy on existing policies that is set to add $63 per covered person — including spouses and dependents — to the cost of health insurance next year (Montgomery and Helderman, 10/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Leaders In Striking Distance Of A Deal
The proposed agreement's framework included no major alterations to the 2010 health-care law that Mr. Obama championed and congressional Republicans have tried to curtail. However, lawmakers appeared to be weighing some minor changes, including new procedures to verify the incomes of some people receiving government subsidies for health-insurance costs. Lawmakers also appeared to be considering delaying for a year a fee of $63 per insured person levied on those who offer policies, including employers, unions and insurance carriers. The likely beneficiaries of the fee would be traditional insurance carriers, which are required to sell policies to everyone, regardless of medical history, and so could see customers incur major bills. Large employers and unions that provide coverage say the levy is unfair and they can't afford it, and have fought for an exemption (Peterson and Hook, 10/15).

Los Angeles Times: Senate Leaders Close In On Deal To End Budget Standoff
The proposal would not make significant changes in President Obama's healthcare law. But it could include a pair of tweaks: the delay of a new tax opposed by labor unions and an income verification requirement for customers who buy insurance through the new online marketplaces (Mascaro, Memoli and Bennett, 10/14).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Senate Leaders Nearing Agreement To Fully Reopen Government, Avoid Threat Of Default
The plan is a far cry from the assault on "Obamacare" that tea party Republicans originally demanded as a condition for a short-term funding bill to keep the government fully operational. It lacks the budget cuts demanded by Republicans in exchange for increasing the government’s $16.7 trillion borrowing cap. Nor does the framework contain any of a secondary set of House GOP demands, like a one-year delay in the health law’s mandate that individuals buy insurance. Instead, it appeared likely to tighten income verification requirements for individuals who qualify for Obamacare subsidies and may repeal a $63 fee that companies must pay for each person they cover under the big health care overhaul beginning in 2014 (10/15).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Belly-Button Tax: In Or Out Of Budget Deal?
The $63 levy on each person covered in a health plan goes into a fund to compensate insurance carriers who end up paying big medical bills for new customers who buy on the government exchanges. The levy is applied to spouses and dependents as well as policy holders, earning it the nickname "the belly-button tax." It’s paid by every company that provides insurance — big businesses, organized labor, and insurance carriers. The likely beneficiaries of the compensation fund, though, are just the traditional insurance carriers, who will become required to sell coverage to everyone, regardless of their medical history (Radnofsky, 10/14).

The Hill: Unions Poised To Win Delay Of ObamaCare Tax In Budget Deal
Labor unions are poised to score the delay of an ObamaCare tax in the bipartisan budget deal emerging in the Senate. The bargain under negotiation would make small adjustments to the healthcare law, including delaying the law's reinsurance fee for one year (Viebeck, 10/14).

Politico: Medical Device Makers Flex Muscle, Arm Way Into Debt Limit Fight
Several key lawmakers advocating a medical device tax repeal deal to end the current fiscal standoff could be rewarded by more than just a peacemaker reputation. The olive branch they’re offering could boost their campaign coffers (Blade, 10/14).

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