Congress Reaches Budget, Tax Deals With Health Care Implications
On Tuesday, Congressional leaders announced they have reached a budget agreement with several health care-related provisions, including some that would affect the Affordable Care Act, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
The two-part agreement consists of:
- A $1.1 trillion omnibus budget measure to fund federal agencies through fiscal year 2016; and
- A $650 billion tax package that would renew for the next 10 years various tax breaks that have ended or are about to expire (Fram, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/16).
Federal lawmakers are expected to vote on the bills Thursday or Friday (Sherman et al., Politico, 12/15).
Affordable Care Act Provisions
The agreement includes several measures that would affect the implementation of the ACA, Modern Healthcare reports (Muchmore, Modern Healthcare, 12/15). Provisions included in the agreement would:
- Delay for two years the implementation of the ACA's so-called "Cadillac" tax, which is currently set to take effect in 2018;
- Halt the law's medical device tax, which has already taken effect, for 2016 and 2017 (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/16);
- Suspend the law's health insurance tax for one year; and
- Extend a measure that prevents the federal government from shifting funds to pay for the ACA's risk corridors program (Sullivan, The Hill, 12/16).
Although the Obama administration has said the ACA's medical device and Cadillac taxes should be kept intact, the White House has signaled President Obama would not veto the agreement even though it includes delays (Lillis, The Hill, 12/15).
Other Health Care Provisions
In addition, the agreement includes provisions that would:
- Boost NIH's funding for medical researchers by $2 billion for FY 2016 (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/16); and
- Renew for five years a program that provides health care and financial compensation to rescue workers who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The agreement does not include a provision to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood (Cornwell, Reuters, 12/16).
Dems Voice Opposition to Tax Package
House Democratic leaders have spoken out against the tax extenders agreement, The Hill reports.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said the tax package "would undermine the deficit, creating a larger debt" and "undermine tax reform, taking off the table (a number) of the things that would be included in a tax reform bill." In addition, Hoyer said the package "would substantially undermine our investments in growing our economy and creating jobs."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted, "I don't see very much support on the Democratic side" for the tax agreement.
It is unclear whether the number of Democratic lawmakers who oppose the tax agreement is enough to prevent its passage (Lillis, The Hill, 12/15). According to Politico, Republican lawmakers will likely have enough votes to ensure the tax agreement's passage, while Democratic lawmakers will likely have enough votes to ensure the spending bill's passage (Politico, 12/15).
Cadillac Tax Opponents Vow To Continue Pushing for Full Repeal
In related news, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), one of the Cadillac tax's strongest opponents, on Tuesday said that a two-year delay on the tax's implementation will not stop efforts to repeal the measure in its entirety, The Hill reports.
Courtney said it is unlikely the tax could be completely repealed while Obama is president. However, a full repeal of the Cadillac tax might be approved by Obama's successor. According to The Hill, all of the 2016 presidential candidates have said they oppose the tax (Ferris, The Hill, 12/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.