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How a Government Shutdown Would Affect HHS

By Jack O'Brien  
   January 19, 2018

Federal agencies are preparing to furlough non-essential workers and diminish available services, harkening back to the 16-day shutdown in 2013.

Editor's note (January 16, 2019): This article pertains to a government shutdown that ultimately lasted three days in January 2018. For information on impacts of the government shutdown that began in December 2018 and continued into January 2019, please see "How The Government Shutdown Affects Health Programs" and our ongoing coverage.

As the midnight deadline approaches to avoid a government shutdown, federal employees are paying close attention to contingency plans for the days ahead.

The Senate began debating Friday whether to approve a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through February 16. If Congress fails to approve the CR, it would trigger the first government shutdown since 2013.

For the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a shutdown would result in furloughing nearly 41,000 staff members, half the department’s workforce, according to a staffing contingency plan.

Below are several highlighted HHS agencies facing potential interruptions in service:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Despite its funding woes being at the center of debate on Capitol Hill, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will maintain necessary CMS staffing to disburse payments to eligible state from carryover funds, even if the government shuts down. States will also have Medicaid funded through the second quarter.

According to the contingency plan, CMS will continue servicing open enrollment verification, noting that Medicare programs will continue “largely without interruption.”

CMS will also continue to operate non-discretionary activities like the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control as well as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Even in the midst of this year’s terrible flu season, the CDC would be unable to support its annual seasonal influenza program if the government shut down. This covers its responsibilities to detect influenza outbreaks and link information across state borders.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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