Debt Limit Extended . . . Now What?
Late last week, Congress reached a bipartisan, bicameral deal to suspend the debt ceiling into 2025. Over the weekend, President Biden signed the bill into law, preventing the United States from reaching its debt limit today.
The agreement left healthcare-related programs largely untouched (e.g., no Medicaid work requirements) with the exception of clawing back much of the unspent pandemic relief funds from many programs and agencies. As there weren’t many health-focused provisions in the deal, we watch for implementation plans and unclarified requirements (i.e., administrative PAYGO and potentially an emergency supplemental funding bill for defense and other priorities).
With the debt limit elephant out of the room for the rest of this Congress, we begin thinking about what’s next. In many respects, we’re back where we started.
We have long said that in order for anything to get done on healthcare in the 118th Congress, it will need to be non-controversial (meaning that it also likely won’t be major, sweeping changes), bipartisan and paid for. Without those three features, legislation will be unlikely to achieve success. On the other hand, legislation with those three features (particularly being paid for) will be difficult to temper. Thus, we return to the regularly scheduled programming of finding consensus—think pharmacy benefit manager and Medicare site-neutral policies.
In the House this week, there are two health-related hearings scheduled in the Energy & Commerce Committee on Wednesday and Friday. There is also a markup on Tuesday in the Education & Workforce Committee that will address five bills, including the Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act. On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee is anticipated to hold a markup of bills impacting high deductible health plans and the use of health savings accounts.
In the Senate, the Committee on Finance will hold a hearing Thursday on healthcare consolidation and ownership, and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will explore youth mental health crises at the same time.