Shutdown of Federal Government Would Not Halt Reform Roll Out
Implementation of the federal health reform law will not stop if the government shuts down because the overhaul is funded by mandatory spending, according to an HHS official, Politico reports.
However, federal staffers working to implement the law and develop regulations could be furloughed because their salaries are considered discretionary spending, according to the official (Feder, Politico, 4/7).
To continue working during a shutdown, employees must be considered "essential" personnel. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he is sure "there will be maneuvering" to ensure that government employees implementing the overhaul will continue to work. According to National Journal, it is likely that at least some HHS employees would be retained to help implement the overhaul (McCarthy, National Journal, 4/6).
However, the HHS official noted that regulation writing related to the reform law could be "significantly hindered."
Shutdown's Effect on Medicare
The HHS official also said CMS has the authority to fund Medicare Parts B and D during a shutdown until the end of May through the Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund. According to Politico, Part A also is paid for by a trust fund.
Bruce Fried -- a former HHS official who oversaw Medicare and Medicaid during federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 -- said that "the programs will continue to function" during a short-term shutdown. He said that payments to physicians and hospitals "will be made, and there is no threat of the financing of health care for beneficiaries not happening."
However, Fried said Part B can get "more complicated" if "a shutdown goes on for more than month or two," which leads to "interesting questions."
The HHS official said, "In the case of a longer-term shutdown, the ability to pay contractors might be compromised, which could lead to some providers" dropping out of the programs (Politico, 4/7). In addition, a shutdown likely would stall new enrollments in the programs (Rovner, NPR/Kaiser Health News, 4/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.