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Exchanges star in budget deal

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Congress has used H.R. 2775 — a public exchange user income verification bill — as the vehicle for keeping the U.S. government open and giving it the ability to continue to borrow money.

The Senate voted 81-18 Wednesday to pass the operations budget and debt ceiling increase bill, which is now known as the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014. 

The House passed the bill by a 285-144 vote in the evening.

President Obama signed the bill into law a few hours later.

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., introduced the bill back in July. When Black introduced the bill, her intent was to have the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary certify that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges are verifying individual users’ income before giving them PPACA health insurance purchase tax credit subsidies and other subsidies.

Black’s original income verification provision is now in the middle of the full text of the bill.

Congressional leaders put the appropriations provisions before the income verification section and the borrowing ceiling provisions — the “default prevention” provisions — after the income verification section.

In some earlier versions of the budget deal, lawmakers had proposed keeping Congress from making any efforts to help congressional staffers and some other government workers pay for health coverage. The version of H.R. 2775 that Obama signed seems to leave that provision out.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has said earlier that congressional staffers will have to get their health benefits through the small-group PPACA exchange for the District of Columbia, but that Congress will continue to pay part of the cost of the exchange coverage, just as it now pays part of the cost of Federal Employees’ Health Benefit Plan coverage.

Allison Bell contributed information to this report.

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