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Funding insurer subsidies isn't going to be easy for Congress

(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Complex Senate rules are adding another snag to the debate over Affordable Care Act insurer subsidies. While insurers are begging Congress to fund them, the Senate can't just fold the subsidies as written in the ACA into its health care legislation without breaking the rules, GOP aides tell me.

That's because the Senate is trying to pass its bill through "reconciliation," which requires every provision to have an impact on the budget. Current spending projections assume the subsidies are being paid, so simply writing a law saying "Congress approves these payments" doesn't spend or save money. Thus, it can't be included in reconciliation.

Why this matters: It means that to make the payments under the reconciliation bill, as opposed to in separate legislation, Republicans would have to tinker with the payments to make them cost something or save money.