What the Government Shutdown Means for Medicare

October 1st, 2013 | Posted by Matt Serafini in Medicare News
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What the Government Shutdown Means for MedicareEffective today, October 1, a sizable portion of the United States government is closed. This shutdown is the result of Congressional failure to produce a bill that would continue to effectively fund the government. While there’s no way of knowing how long this shutdown will last, we’ll tell you what this means for Medicare in the immediate future.    

The short answer is that, throughout this government shutdown, both Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue. These are sections of the government have been deemed essential, and will continue to function without issue. Those submitting a disability application could potentially find a delay in this registration process, although unemployment benefits will continue to be paid out. Lastly, some of the federal services, like replacing lost Social Security cards, may be reduced and slowed during this time.

Medicare under the shutdown

The last time there was a government shutdown, it lasted for 21 days in 1995. At that time, there was a delay in processing new Medicare applicants. The current government shutdown could potentially affect Social Security disability recipients who are applying for Medicare, because the federal application process may slow down. Social Security disability recipients have a two year wait time dated from the start of their disability benefits in order to qualify for Medicare. These individuals might experience a delay in joining Medicare.

During this 2013 shutdown, there is no foreseeable impact on a Medicare beneficiary’s medical coverage or services. There is no way of knowing how long this situation will last, but unless the shutdown spans several weeks, the impacts are expected to be slight. Reimbursements paid out to doctors and hospitals might be delayed if the employees that process those claims are deemed inessential workers (they would be furloughed until the shutdown is over). Considering that these reimbursement payments are not made daily, there is no reason to suggest any immediate impact to the process.

Please note that the government shutdown will not prevent you from joining a Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, or Medicare Supplement plan. Because these plans are sold by private insurance providers, you may still shop for a plan using PlanPrescriber’s Medicare plan finder tool, and enroll during the approaching Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).

AARP also covered this story.

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2 Responses

  • David says:

    How will applications for Medicare benefits be affected by the government shutdown?

    David did not rate this post.
    • Hi David,

      Thank you for your question.

      During the government shutdown, Medicare benefits will not be affected, but applications to receive these benefits may be affected. USA Today states, “Although a government shutdown for any period of time could result in delays in claims processing, audits, and other administrative functions, most essential functions of Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA implementation will continue to operate under emergency and mandatory funding.” However, because the shutdown has continued for over a week, many offices may be feeling the crunch, and the emergency funding may be dwindling. As a result of this and the widespread furloughs, many offices are not accepting new applications during this time.

      You may want to call your local Social Security office ahead of time to see if they are able to process new applications during the shutdown.

      Quinn Korzeniecki did not rate this post.


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