Government shutdown looms as healthcare reform battle continues

With only a few hours left before the Monday midnight deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats are spending their time finger-pointing rather than compromising on funding for healthcare reform and appear no closer to a deal.

The potential closing of government agencies becomes more likely as House Republicans refuse to back down on their quest to kill healthcare reform, a program designed by the Obama administration to extend health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans. They insist on a one-year delay of the law and repeal of the medical device tax to fund the Affordable Care Act be part of a deal to keep federal agencies open once the new budget year begins Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the Republican offer for a one-year delay and a repeal of the funding to help pay for it, "pointless," according to the Tribune. Reid said in a statement the Democratic-led Senate wouldn't approve such measures and President Barack Obama also has threatened to veto any changes in the law.

The Senate is expected to work on the bill today and could operate under rules that require only a simple majority to reject the Republican amendments, a leadership aide told the Los Angeles Times. If that occurs, the article stated, the House will either have to pass the government funding bill later today or launch a shutdown, which would take effect tomorrow.

But even if a government shutdown occurs, it won't stop a key part of the Affordable Care Act from moving forward. Health insurance exchanges across the country will open for enrollment as planned on Oct. 1.

"A shutdown per se doesn't stop the Affordable Care Act," Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, told Bloomberg. That's because the reform law is largely funded by mandatory spending, which won't be affected by this government shutdown, rather than annual appropriations, FierceHealthPayer reported. And money for the parts of the law financed through annual appropriations has already been spent, making it unaffected by the potential shutdown, NPR Shots reported.

For more:
- read the Chicago Tribune article
- here's the LA Times piece
- check out the Bloomberg article
- read the NPR Shots report