Pro­longed gov­ern­ment shut­down would af­fect providers

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Beth Kutscher

The pos­si­bil­ity of a gov­ern­ment shut­down Thurs­day could have a rip­ple ef­fect on healthcare providers but mostly if the shut­down is pro­longed. Congress is in an eleventh-hour race to pass a spend­ing bill or risk a sec­ond gov­ern­ment shut­down.

House Speaker John Boehner’s sur­prise an­nounce­ment that he is re­sign­ing from Congress in late Oc­to­ber was seen by many as less­en­ing that pos­si­bil­ity. Tea party con­ser­va­tives had threat­ened to oust Boehner if he didn’t hold firm on a spend­ing bill that de­funds Planned Par­ent­hood. His de­ci­sion to step down al­lows him to act on a com­pro­mise plan that pre­serves fund­ing for the women’s healthcare provider and, by ex­ten­sion, the en­tire gov­ern­ment.

Even with a shut­down, funds to pay Medi­care claims come from a trust fund that’s sep­a­rate from ap­pro­pri­a­tions. How­ever, HHS em­ploy­ees who process claims could be fur­loughed, mak­ing pay­ment de­lays pos­si­ble. With a twoweek lag on Medi­care claims, a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect wouldn’t be seen un­less a shut­down stretches longer than that.

The 16-day 2013 shut­down had a lim­ited ef­fect on providers de­spite skele­tal crews at many fed­eral agen­cies. HHS plowed ahead with its first open en­roll­ment for the health in­sur­ance ex­changes. Dur­ing the 21-day shut­down that be­gan in late 1995, HHS ul­ti­mately had to pay claims on credit.

Vet­er­ans Af­fairs hos­pi­tals will con­tinue to op­er­ate dur­ing a shut­down, but a spokesper­son did not con­firm whether there would be an im­pact on elec­tive and other an­cil­lary ser­vices.

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