Capitol Alert: Shutdown, or not - California launching health law Tuesday

ccadelago@sacbee.comSeptember 30, 2013 

Thelma Wallace, right, Yong Li, center, and others ask about health insurance Saturday at George Sim Community Center in Sacramento. Covered California has used federal funds to award nearly 50 grants, ranging from $250,000 to $1 million, to raise awareness of the health care marketplace, which will open Tuesday.

LEZLIE STERLING — lsterling@sacbee.com

California will forge ahead with the launch of its health insurance marketplace Tuesday, regardless of whether Congress fails to reach a last-minute deal to avert a federal government shutdown.

A possible shutdown would not stop the state because it has already received federal funding to implement the law. Much of the health care law, including federal subsidies for lower-income customers, was established through mandatory spending and not tied to annual appropriations.

On Friday, President Barack Obama promised that the insurance exchanges would open for business even if there's a government shutdown.

"That's a done deal," he said.

Indeed, Covered California - the state's version of the federal health care law - is preparing to begin enrolling customers in its health insurance exchange on Tuesday. Parts of the government would close on the same day if lawmakers in Washington don't act on legislation to extend discretionary spending.

Congressional Republicans have been working to stop the health law in its tracks.

On Monday, Senate Democrats tabled two House-approved amendments to a spending bill that would delay for one year implementation of the health law as well as repeal a medical-device tax designed to help pay for its implementation. Obama and Senate Democrats are urging the House to pass the Senate-approved spending bill with no provisions on the health care law.

California, one of 14 states rolling out its own marketplace, will mark opening day with a series of events in Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The federal government will oversee the launch in the remaining states.

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