Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Ten Legislative Days Remain to Address Debt Limit

Congress is under increasing pressure to raise the government’s $18.1 trillion borrowing cap or risk the market turmoil that could result from the United States defaulting on its obligations. Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew moved the deadline up for addressing the debt limit to November 3, earlier than previously expected. That leaves ten legislative days for Congress to raise the debt limit. At this point, the government would have only $30 billion in cash on hand, while federal bills can total more than $60 billion for a single day, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Secretary Lew has been using what is known as “extraordinary measures” since earlier this year to extend the government’s borrowing authority in the absence of congressional action. Congress has never failed to raise the debt limit in time, though debate over raising the debt limit in 2011 resulted in the first credit rating downgrade for the United States. While Republican lawmakers have stressed that they will not allow the country to default, they are likely to leverage the debt ceiling negotiations to push for structural changes to how the government spends money. The President has said that he will only approve a clean debt limit increase without any attached policy changes. The House Rules Committee has announced that it would take up H.R. 692 this Tuesday, debt prioritization legislation that would require the Treasury to pay both Social Security benefits and the principal and interest on the debt held by the public should the debt limit be exceeded. Democrats are strongly opposed to the bill, which is given little chance of moving beyond the House.

OMB Announces Final Federal Deficit

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced last week that the final federal deficit for fiscal year (FY) 2015 came in at $439 billion. This figure is $4 billion higher than that projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) earlier this month, though the deficit is still at its lowest level in dollar terms since 2007. The deficit is calculated to be 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and $44 billion less than the deficit in FY 2014.

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