Even though only 56 senators voted for the bill, 77 senators, including many Republicans, voted to keep the U.S. government open by letting the bill come up for a vote on the Senate floor. If the measure had failed, the government would have lost official authorization to spend the money it needs to continue with normal operations.
President Obama has said he will sign the bill.
The PDF giving the official text of H.R. 83 is 1,603 pages long and includes cryptic provisions affecting many different aspects of federal government operations, ranging from agriculture building funding to FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center. Congress has released a document that explains many of the provisions in the bill.
Hundreds of pages of provisions in the bill deal funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Section 219, for example, calls for HHS to post more details about how it spends PPACA public health and prevention money on the Web.
Here’s a look at three provisions of interest to agents and brokers in the commercial health insurance market.
1. HHS OIG may be more entertaining
HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) is a watchdog agency that’s supposed to keep tabs on the activities of HHS. The new funding deal gives it $71 million, according to a provision on page 874 of the PDF. That’s less than the $75 million request Obama put in his budget request for fiscal year 2015, which started Oct. 1, but it’s the same amount the agency received for fiscal year 2014.
Some in Congress questioned whether HHS OIG officials did enough to let them know how badly working on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) HealthCare.gov public exchange enrollment system was going before the system opened for business.
In the explanatory statement about H.R. 83, lawmakers say HHS OIG must give Congress a work plan describing how it will oversee PPACA implementation within 60 days after President Obama signs the bill.
HHS OIG is also supposed to explain how it will enforce rules that forbid recipients of HHS grants from using taxpayers’ money for lobbying, and it will require HHS OIG to work with inspector general agency that oversees the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to assess how the IRS is doing at keeping taxpayers from abusing the PPACA premium subsidy tax credit program, according to the explanatory statement. The premium tax credit report is due by June 1, 2015.