Experts have already decided that the two-week government shutdown did more harm than good for the Republican effort to stall or strike down the Affordable Care Act. All the talk about the shutdown distracted from the problems with the rollout of some exchanges on October 1, most notably Healthcare.gov. But how did the shutdown actually affect healthcare policy in the U.S.?
We scoured the news to find out.
The two-week pause undermined Medicare, according to ModernHealthcare and editorialist Merrill Goozner. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), he writes, will likely miss the November 1 deadline for publishing final Medicare Payment Rules. Providers who serve the more than 50 million Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. will probably have to wait longer this year to find out how much certain services will be reimbursed in 2014.
More than three quarters of the staff at CMS were subject to the furlough.
Goozner adds that third-quarter economic growth slipped to below 1.5 percent and fourth quarter growth will likely be slowed as well due to the shutdown.
Continued slow economic growth will force Medicare spending into slower than projected growth as well, at 3 percent or less each year, compared to the 4.6 percent yearly spending growth CMS has budgeted currently. Goozner extrapolates that the economic stall created by the shutdown will translate into Medicare spending cuts down the road, either from cutting provider payments or cutting benefits for seniors.
Speaking of stalled, the shutdown may also have stalled Meaningful Use work, according to Healthcare IT News. October 1 happened to be the start of MU stage 2 as well, but the Office of the National Coordinator was reduced from a staff of 184 to four.
“I think the most hurtful component of ONC cutting back to the healthcare economic sector is what these delays mean for healthcare providers and healthcare IT vendors with respect to Meaningful Use stage 2,” Keith Boone wrote on his blog Health Standards. “There seems to be some economic impact here, but I have no clue how to measure it.”
The Affordable Care Act
Minimal changes here, as noted by the Washington Post and others.
There is now a new income verification measure for consumers who get subsidies to help pay monthly premiums, but that basically consists of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reporting on how income will be verified by January 1 of next year , and the inspector general reporting six months later on how successful that verification measure was (after subsidies have already been mailed.)
What will be the long-term implications of these effects? Few are hazarding any predictions right now. Time will have to be the judge for Medicare, Meaningful Use and the Affordable Care Act.