TUESDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the federal
government shutdown that began Tuesday morning, U.S. officials said
Medicare and Medicaid recipients and veterans will continue to
receive health-care benefits.
The shutdown also won't stop Tuesday's introduction of the
health insurance exchanges that are a foundation of the Affordable
Care Act. The health-reform law, also known as Obamacare, is ground
zero in the budget stalemate on Capitol Hill between Republicans
and Democrats that led to the shutdown.
However, a number of programs important to public health will
probably be disrupted. They include infectious disease
surveillance, inspections of food and drug manufacturers, and
monitoring of imported foods and drugs, government officials said
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expected
to furlough 52 percent of its staff in the shutdown, sending home
approximately 40,500 employees, according to a contingency plan
released by the agency. An estimated 38,000 staffers will remain on
the job for the short term.
The disruption in government services won't affect people
receiving health care through Medicare or Medicaid, officials
"In the short term, the Medicare Program will continue largely without disruption during a lapse in appropriations," the contingency plan said, adding that money already has been set aside to continue funding to states for Medicaid services and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
The shutdown also won't affect any medical programs provided by
the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, officials added.
"All VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational," the agency said in a shutdown guide sent to its field offices. "The Veterans Health Administration has received an advance appropriation to continue its services without disruption."
In a somewhat ironic twist, the shutdown also won't halt the
rollout of the health exchanges, or marketplaces, a cornerstone of
the health-care law. The program that many Republicans are intent
on defunding -- in exchange for keeping the government operating --
will proceed even as other services falter.
"Many of the core parts of the health-care law are funded through mandatory appropriations and wouldn't be affected," HHS official Gary Cohen told the Associated Press. Cohen is director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
President Barack Obama has echoed those remarks.
"On Tuesday, about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality, affordable health care, just like anybody else," Obama said. He added that the new health insurance marketplaces "will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what -- even if there's a government shutdown. That's a done deal."
People will be able to go to their state health exchange online
or over the phone and begin registering for 2014 coverage, even if
they live in one of the 34 states in which the federal government
either wholly or partially operates the health insurance
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will
continue coordination between Medicaid and state marketplaces,
guiding eligible people with low incomes into the program. CMS said
it will also continue to perform such health-care industry
assessments as insurance rate reviews, which are mandated by the
Affordable Care Act.
But, a number of important government-run health-care functions
will be disrupted during the shutdown, the HHS contingency plan
said. Some of these include:
For more on the Affordable Care Act, visit the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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