It looks like the Senate leaders are finally getting close to ending the two week long government shut down and once again increasing the nations debt ceiling. While the government shutdown has only affected about 15% of the operating government programs, it’s put a big black eye on bickering members of the Senate. The media focus seems to have been more on the shutdown, when the bigger looming problem is the fact that we are only a week or two away from the Treasury running out of money to pay bills. The United States Treasury has reported that as of this Thursday they will only have about $30 billion left to pay bills if the debt ceiling is not increased. This would result in the US not being able to pay interest on outstanding treasury bonds which would be devastating to our financial markets and our economy.
This deal that they seem close to agreeing upon would only extend our debt ceiling crisis out a few months, to February 2014. They will have to make some longer term plans and budget changes to fix our nations cash flow problem for good. Unless we see some major policy changes in Washington, our fast increasing federal debt could lead to slower long term growth in our country as debt rises as a percentage of GDP. My bet is that we’re going to see many more debt ceiling increases, and we’ll see them more and more frequently.
One of the main reasons Republicans and Democrats have not reached a deal yet is their disagreements on funding Obamacare. The new Obamacare health insurance policies are set to begin coverage as of January 1, 2014. People only have 77 days left to try and enroll in one of these policies, but system glitches and a bottleneck of site traffic are preventing many from enrolling. I personally tried to log on to www.healthcare.gov yesterday to check prices on a policy for my own family. I was able to get onto the site and begin setting up a username and password. But when I hit the submit button to finish setting up my account I got a message saying that the “system was unavailable at this time”. If you’re having these same problems, I guess all you can do is keep trying.
Some insurers like Cigna have told their brokers to wait until November to try and enroll people who qualify for a government subside on their premiums. They say they don’t trust the system yet and are hoping that they’ll work out some more bugs in the next few weeks. Something tells me that due to the scope of this program, this whole exchange system may not be ready to go by January 1. I hope that I’m wrong. I know a lot of people who need health coverage and have been unable to get it or afford it in the past.