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As deadline nears, debt ceiling fight drags on

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) answers questions from the press followiong a meeting of House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government shutdown is entering its fifteenth day as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives remain gridlocked on funding the federal government.

Congressional negotiators are still struggling to put together a deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling. Some of the hard bargaining involves the president’s health care law. 

The negotiators are apparently considering a delay of some of the health care law’s new taxes, including the so-called “belly button” tax. It’s a flat fee of about $63 a year for every person on an insurance plan. It would be paid mainly by employers and unions. They’ve been pushing for at least a delay of the tax. Health economist Austin Frakt says they’d really like to get rid of it altogether.

“Nobody wants to pay a tax,” he said.  “So naturally, if they can they’re going to fight it.”

Another part of Obamacare that could be delayed: the tax on medical devices like wheelchairs and pacemakers. Amitabh Chandra is a health economist at Harvard. He says a delay in this tax could be a big deal.

“It’s a tax of about 2.5 percent on the revenues of all medical device companies and so  that would be a tidy sum of money,” he says.

The congressional negotiators are reportedly also considering a requirement that the government certify that people are eligible for subsidies to buy insurance. 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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