Debt ceiling deal and health care: What’s in and what’s out of the bill?
Congress will be scrutinizing and debating the legislation, which includes provisions to fund medical care for veterans and claws back unspent COVID money.
The details of the deal between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were released Sunday in the form of a 99-page bill that would suspend the nation’s debt limit through 2025 to avoid a federal default while limiting government spending.
McCarthy said the House will vote on the legislation Wednesday, giving the Senate time to consider it before June 5, the date when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States could default on its debt obligations if lawmakers did not act in time.
Central to the compromise is a two-year budget deal that would essentially hold spending flat for 2024, while boosting it for defense and veterans, and capping increases at 1% for 2025. That’s alongside raising the debt limit for two years, pushing the volatile political issue past the next presidential election.
Many health care provisions are included. Some were removed during negotiations. Here is a quick look:
The agreement would fully fund medical care for veterans at the levels included in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget blueprint, including a fund dedicated to veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances or environmental hazards. Biden sought $20.3 billion for the toxic exposure fund in his budget.
Unspent COVID money
The agreement would rescind about $30 billion in unspent relief money that Congress approved through previous bills, including the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, both landmark COVID relief packages.
These rescissions include federal funding originally allocated for COVID testing, vaccine coordination at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and vaccine distribution, and for mental health awareness and education, and different industry pandemic responses including agriculture and railroads.
It includes rental assistance, small business loans and broadband for rural areas.
The legislation protects pandemic funding for veterans’ medical care, housing assistance, the Indian Health Service, and some $5 billion for a program focused on rapidly developing the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
The agreement would expand work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps — a longtime Republican priority. But the changes are pared down from the previously House-passed debt ceiling bill.
Work requirements already exist for most able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The bill would phase in higher age limits, bringing the maximum age to 54 by 2025. But the provision expires, bringing the maximum age back down to age 49 five years later, in 2030.
Democrats also won some new expanded benefits for veterans, homeless people and young people aging out of foster care. That would also expire in 2030, according to the agreement.
The agreement would also make it slightly harder for states to waive work requirements for SNAP for certain individuals. Current law allows states to issue some exemptions to the work rules on a discretionary basis, but limits how many people can be exempted. The agreement would lower the number of exemptions that a state can issue and curb states’ ability to carry over the number of exemptions they can hand out from month to month.
The agreement would also make changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which gives cash aid to families with children. While not going as far as the House bill had proposed, the deal would make adjustments to a credit that allows states to require fewer recipients to work, updating and readjusting the credit to make it harder for states to avoid.
What’s left out
House Republicans passed legislation last month that would have created new work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, but that was left out of the final agreement. The idea faced stiff opposition from the White House and congressional Democrats, who said it would lead to fewer people able to afford food or health care without actually increasing the number of people in the workforce.