By Heidi Przybyla and Alex Wayne Bloomberg News
Members Of Congress Join Tea Party At Anti-Obamacare Rally At US Capitol Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at a rally to defund Obamacare in front of the U.S. Capitol in September. His plan to threaten to shut down the government to defund Obamacare may not work. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
In a quirk of the calendar, the start of enrollment for the Affordable Care Act and the first day of a shutdown would fall on the same day, Oct. 1. The good news for President Barack Obama is that cutting off funds for non-essential government programs in a shutdown wouldn't stop funding for implementing his health-care law, health policy experts said.
"A shutdown per se doesn't stop the Affordable Care Act," said Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who now leads the American Action Forum, a Washington advocacy group opposed to the health law.
That's because the 2010 law relies primarily on mandatory spending, which congressional inaction can't stop. It's the budget category used for benefits such as Medicare and Social Security.
If some Republicans succeed in shutting down the government, opponents of the health-care law can't rely on a closure to impede the ability of new insurance exchanges to link with other agencies.
The exchanges must connect to computers at other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Homeland Security Department, in order to determine whether potential customers are eligible for coverage and for subsidies to help pay their premiums. Those connections probably wouldn't be jeopardized by a shutdown, Holtz-Eakin said.show more
By Laylan Copelin, Austin American-Statesmanh
Robert Mayfield owns several Dairy Queen restaurants, but is delaying opening another one because of the confusion surrounding new healthcare legislation. He is shown at one of his restaurants in Austin, Texas, on September 11, 2013. (Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman/MCT)
AUSTIN, Texas - Austin restaurateur Robert Mayfield had been thinking about adding another location to his string of Dairy Queen franchises.
But he has shelved those plans until he can sort out what the implementation of the Affordable Care Act -- the federal law commonly known as "Obamacare" -- will do to his business.
"I'm not doing it now," said Mayfield, who also owns Wally's Burger Express. "This has uncertainty in spades."
Mayfield's reaction to the health care law might be extreme, but his level of uncertainty about the new rules isn't unusual.
The complexity of the Affordable Care Act -- the law is about 1,600 pages, with regulations exceeding 20,000 pages -- is creating confusion for many employers, business consultants say. With an initial deadline looming on Oct. 1 for informing employees about their health care plans, many business owners are still unsure about what they should be doing, where they should be in the process or even where to go to seek help, experts say.
"Many employers are somewhat panicked right now," said Alicia Haff, president of Haff Consulting Services, who advises Central Texas business owners on the new law. "They are simply unsure of what they should be doing."
Rebecca Melancon, executive director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, puts it this way: "I hear a lot, but mostly confusion."
The Obama administration has postponed until January 2015 the mandate for "large" employers -- those with 50 or more employees -- to provide health insurance or face penalties. But there is still a deadline looming for businesses to take some action. By Oct. 1, all employers, whether they offer health insurance or not, are required to notify their employees either about their company's insurance plan or about the new marketplaces that are opening to the uninsured.
While missing that initial deadline won't result in fines or penalties, business consultants say business owners shouldn't assume they have plenty of time to sort out their plans for dealing with the Affordable Care Act.show more
By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff
The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon. (AP file photo)
BRATTLEBORO -- It's official.
On Monday, Sept. 23, Entergy Nuclear Operations informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that in the fourth quarter of 2014, it will permanently cease power operations of its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.
"VY will continue to operate until the end of the current operating cycle," noted the letter to the NRC. "A more specific date cannot be provided at this time in order to allow for fuel coastdown variables."
Once the variables of the plant's fuel usage have been calculated, Entergy will submit a supplement certifying the exact date on which operations will cease.
Vermont Yankee operates on an 18-month fuel cycle. It most recently exited a refueling outage on April 5, 2013, meaning its final power-down could occur sometime in October 2014.
On Aug. 27, Entergy announced via Twitter its decision to close the plant.show more