Fact Checked

Healthcare caught in crosshairs of ongoing shutdown

Doctor talking to a patient and his wifeImage: Doctor talking to a patient and his wife
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Update: Since this article was published, President Trump has announced he’s willing to sign a measure to reopen the government until Feb. 15 to continue debate over funding for a border wall. Congress is expected to pass the measure as early as Friday evening. It’s still unclear how this temporary re-opening could affect the healthcare industry.

As the longest U.S. government shutdown in history enters its 35th day, there is growing concern among healthcare industry experts about the potential effects of the shutdown on the healthcare sector.

So far, the shutdown could lead to delays in processing tax credits that some Americans use to pay for health insurance premiums. There have also been delays in rule-making for the Affordable Care Act that could affect the 2020 insurance marketplace. The shutdown also means the Indian Health Service can’t provide funding to Native American health clinics, which could force some clinics to close.

With a resolution to the shutdown eluding Congress, there have been more calls for a swift end to the political standoff before more Americans feel its effects. However, the path forward remains unclear.

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What’s the background?

The partial U.S. government shutdown is largely the result of ongoing debate over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Two Senate bills to end the shutdown — one that included funding for a border wall and another without — failed Thursday, leaving the issue unresolved.

As the shutdown drags on, some federal workers could begin losing dental and vision health benefits next month unless they pay their premiums directly out-of-pocket.

However, the effects of the shutdown on healthcare extend far beyond a loss of coverage for some federal workers. In a recent letter to the Trump administration, two trade groups — the Alliance for Community Health Plans and the Association for Community Affiliated Plans — warned of the shutdown’s effects on insurers that are planning 2020 policies.

Why does this matter?

With ongoing debate about the health of the U.S. economy, there is growing concern that the shutdown will affect many segments of Americans’ daily lives. The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the shutdown reduces quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points each week it continues.

When it comes to healthcare, the potential effects of the shutdown could be far-reaching, hitting not just furloughed and unpaid federal workers but millions of Americans. In particular, the delay in ACA rule-making could have implications for the millions of Americans who will need to purchase healthcare for 2020 in the ACA marketplace. If insurers don’t have adequate time to plan, there may be fewer coverage options next year.

The delay comes at a time when a new Gallup poll indicates fewer adult Americans had health insurance coverage during the fourth quarter of 2018 than at any time in the previous four years.

What’s next?

After Thursday’s two failed Senate proposals to end the shutdown, the path to resolving the stalemate remains unclear. As of Friday, the shutdown has left many federal workers without a second full paycheck, which could affect their ability to afford mortgage and rent payments.

Looking ahead to February, the shutdown could also affect funding for the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census, a once-in-a-decade count of the U.S. population that is crucial for determining how federal funds are allocated to state and local governments.

With no end to the shutdown in sight, and the impacts on the U.S. economy only likely to grow, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your financial health to prepare for the future, and to stay updated on the latest developments.

Additionally, consider contacting your members of Congress to make your voice heard.

About the author: Paris Ward is a content strategist at Credit Karma, providing readers with the latest news that will aid their financial progress. She has more than a decade of experience as a writer and editor and holds a bachelor’s… Read more.