What will happen to healthcare if the government shuts down

As a government shutdown looms, with Congress not expected to pass appropriations for the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1, many patients and physicians are left wondering how the action will impact healthcare, especially for federally funded programs. 

Here are a few ways that a shutdown would impact the industry: 

1. While "mandatory" spending programs like Medicare will not see any immediate impacts, the Department of Health and Human Services' "discretionary" programs will be put on pause without an Oct. 1 appropriations bill, and administrative actions may be delayed. 

2. The Biden administration is responsible for drawing up contingency plans in the event of a shutdown. The plan for Health and Human Services estimates that 42 percent of staff would be furloughed. 

3. While benefits will continue under Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act and physicians and hospitals could continue to submit bills and get paid, federal staffers considered nonessential would be furloughed, which could cause delays in Medicare enrollment. During the 1995-1996 shutdown, more than 10,000 Medicare applicants were temporarily denied every day of the shutdown. 

4. CMS will have sufficient funding to fund Medicaid through the first quarter of 2024. If the shutdown were to last even longer, those programs could begin to be impacted. 

5. An elimination of federal grants caused by the shutdown could affect community health centers, many of which depend on federal funds to stay open, according to a report from NPR. Some clinics may be forced to cut back hours or specialties in the event of a prolonged shutdown. 

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