Posted by: danielrashke | December 23, 2009

Things Are Heating Up

Even as the temperature outside continues to cool down, things in Washington are heating up.  At the time of year when most of us are concentrating on the upcoming holidays, our Senators are still in Washington, inching closer to passing their version of the healthcare reform bill.  The vote in the Senate will take place tomorrow morning (December 24, 2009).  The Democrats know they have enough votes to ensure passage, so they are holding the vote early in the day to allow members time to travel home to spend the holidays with their families.

Then the process of reconciliation between the House and Senate versions of the bill will begin.  Earlier this week there was an expectation that the House and Senate would get together and work out their differences in time for the President’s State of the Union Address.  But recent reports indicate that the timeframe might be slipping.  In fact, it could be February before they complete final action on the bill.   Some observers feel that a number our legislators may be suffering from healthcare fatigue, both within the House and the Senate, as well as in the administration.   The House passed a jobs bill before it left for the holiday break.  The Senate has yet to act on its version of a jobs bill, so there might be a tendency for some to want to talk about something other than healthcare and focus on the economy.  Nonetheless, we are continuing to work under the assumption that the healthcare reform bill could be ready for the President’s signature under the shorter timeframe.

As far as Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) are concerned, the effective date is the only difference between the House and the Senate versions of the bill.  The House version has an effective date of 2013; the Senate’s is 2011.  While we continue working as an industry to dissuade imposing  any proposed excise tax of FSAs, the more pressing issue at hand is ensuring that the 2013 effective date makes it into the final bill.  Some observers are not optimistic about eliminating the excise tax completely, and many expect the House bill will have to accept some version of the excise tax during the process of reconciliation with the Senate bill.

Yes, things are definitely heating up.  Stay tuned.


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