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Kent Hoover
Puget Sound Business Journal|www.bizjournals.com/seattle

Enrollment in Obamacare’s insurance exchanges grew by 1.1 million people in January, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

That means 3.3 million had signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange, or state exchanges during their first four months of operation.

“We’re seeing a healthy growth in enrollment,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a conference call with reporters.

The best news for health care reform is that more young adults are enrolling in exchange plans. Getting this relatively healthy segment of the population to sign up is critical for keeping insurance premiums affordable. In January, 27 percent of the Americans who enrolled in exchange plans were in the 18-34 age range, compared with 24 percent for the exchanges’ first three months of operation. This age group’s share for the four months as a whole is 24 percent. read more »

 

Good news on jobs: Small businesses added more workers in December than in any other month in nearly eight years.

That’s according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly survey of small business owners. NFIB members increased employment by an average of 0.24 workers per firm in December. That’s the highest reading since February 2006.

Only a few small businesses accounted for this growth, however. NFIB found that 14 percent of NFIB members added an average of 3.4 workers, while 10 percent reduced employment by an average of 1.8 workers. More than three-quarters of small business owners reported no net change in employment.

Hiring could have been greater if there were more qualified applicants: 38 percent of small business owners said there were no qualified applicants for open positions. read more »

 

Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan budget deal that would prevent a government shutdown in January and avoid some of sequestration’s across-the-board spending cuts.

Now all Congress has to do is actually pass it, which is no sure thing, especially in the House.

The deal was announced the evening of Dec. 10 by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chair the budget committees in each of their chambers.

It would set overall discretionary spending for this fiscal year at $1.012 trillion, about halfway between the House budget’s level of $967 billion and the Senate’s $1.058 trillion. That spending level would increase to $1.14 trillion in fiscal 2015. read more »

 

Things are so bad on Capitol Hill that we’ll be lucky if Congress passes a bill that only temporarily ends the government shutdown and raises the nation’s debt ceiling for a few months.

Such a deal may avert a catastrophic debt default, but it won’t do much to help the economy, according to small businesses and bankers who testified Tuesday afternoon at a Senate hearing.

“The nationwide uncertainty resulting from any short-term ‘kick the can down the road’ legislation will be devastating,” said Ronald Paul, chairman and CEO of EagleBank in Bethesda, Md.

If Congress faces another government shutdown or debt ceiling deadline in January or February, the next few months are “going to be equally as ugly” as the past couple of weeks have been, Paul told the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. read more »

 

America’s most powerful business organization once again urged Congress and President Barack Obama to end the government shutdown and raise the nation’s debt limit.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, said the chamber “understands the serious issues” raised in the debate over funding the government, including “the desire of some lawmakers to use every opportunity to alter the nation’s fiscal course toward more sustainable policies.”

“Yet in the back and forth of legislative wrangling, Congress and the administration should not lose sight of the fact that both the continuing resolution read more »

 
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