Media reports Saturday morning indicate a deal is being built that would end the shutdown while leaving the ACA largely in place
According to the latest media reports, a deal is emerging among all parties on Capitol Hill--House of Representatives and Senate Republicans and Democrats, and the Obama administration--that could quickly end the current shutdown of the federal government, which has been in place since Oct. 1, and which would raise the nation's debt limit through Jan. 31, 2014, thus averting a default on the nation's debt, which otherwise could possibly take place after Oct. 17, when the federal government's ability to borrow money to pay its bills becomes fully exhausted. Mainstream media reports indicate that the deal would only peripherally touch the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the defunding of which had been a core demand on the part of House Republicans at the time of the shutdown.
According to a report in the Washington Post by veteran Capitol Hill reporters Lori Montomgery and Paul Kane, "If an agreement could be reached, it would clear a path for another increase in the debt limit later that month [January], without additional drama. In exchange, Republicans were seeking what they called a few 'fig leafs' [sc]--minor adjustments to Obama's new healthcare initiative. The first would delay for two years a 2.3-percent tax on medical devices that is unpopular in both parties. The second would require internal auditors to ensure that people who get tax subsidies to buy health insurance are in fact eligible. Another option under consideration but not included in the latest draft," the Post report said, "would reduce the number of workers required to receive health coverage from an employer, by changing the definition of a full-time worker from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week."
Significantly, however, none of the core health insurance or health system reform elements in the ACA would be touched by the terms of the deal, allowing the ACA to essentially proceed without impediment, a core demand of President Obama for any resolution to the impasse.
In addition, a report in The New York Times by Jeremy W. Peters, Ashley Parker, and Peter Baker indicated that the potential deal might also lead to "an immediate bipartisan conference for the House and the Senate to begin negotiations over a budget, with the expectation of an agreement by mid-January. Federal government operations have for many months been funded by a series of continuing resolutions, or in the jargon of Capitol Hill, "CRs," as the formal budgeting process has continually broken down because of partisan wrangling on the Hill.
UPDATE: Saturday Afternoon, October 12
After an evening and a morning in which negotiations among all parties had been raising hopes for a relatively quick resolution to the current crisis, as of late Saturday morning, negotiations appeared to have broken down again. A report in the Washington Post by Rosalind S. Helderman, Jeff Simon, and Zachary Goldfarb opened with this sentence: "House Speaker John A. Boehner told his conference Saturday morning that talks between the House GOP and President Obama have reached an impasse--shifting Washington's attention to discussions in the Senate to raise the federal debt ceiling and end the government shutdown." However, the same article reported skepticism on the part of some House Republicans over some of the possible elements of an agreement reached on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. The situation Saturday afternoon remained exceptionally fluid.
Healthcare Informatics will continue to keep its readers informed of new developments in this rapidly moving story.