The potential government shutdown could have significant consequences for federally funded programs, including services provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). While Medicare benefits will not be affected, the agency will retain fewer than half of its employees, many of whom will be unpaid, until the shutdown ends. This could lead to disruptions in CMS’s ability to provide oversight on health benefit programs and delays in Medicare payments to hospitals and medical providers. In the past, shutdowns have caused temporary disruptions to Medicare services, and millions of Americans who rely on Medicare benefits are concerned about potential impacts.
The current shutdown is the result of ideological divisions between House Republicans and Democrats over how to reduce the national debt. Ultraconservatives are advocating for more aggressive spending cuts, even though the programs under discussion account for only a small portion of the overall budget. Some Democrats have labeled the potential halt a “Republican shutdown” and expressed concerns that it could trickle over to Social Security or Medicare benefits. However, since much of the operational work is done by administrative contractors, consumers are unlikely to experience any significant disruptions in accessing medical services.
Despite the potential shutdown, Medicare drug pricing negotiations, a highly anticipated effort to assist seniors and disabled Americans with affording costly medications, would not be impeded. The funding for these negotiations was already included in a previous act signed by President Biden, so the money should be available to keep the negotiations going even if a shutdown occurs. However, both Republicans and Democrats have a limited amount of time left to reach an agreement and avert a shutdown before the deadline on October 1st.