What a 2023 government shutdown would mean for Medicare beneficiaries
Congress has through Saturday to avoid a government shutdown that would disrupt the U.S. economy and the lives of millions of Americans who work for the government or rely on federal services.
The Senate late Tuesday unveiled a bipartisan stopgap measure to keep offices funded through Nov. 17. But it’s bogged down by controversy, with a small-yet-growing number of Republicans in the House threatening to oppose it due to billions in supplemental funding for Ukraine.
Against the mounting chaos, Biden warned Republican conservatives of their hard-line tactics, saying late Monday that funding the federal government is “one of the most basic fundamental responsibilities of Congress.”
A shutdown would mean potential hardship for a wide swath of Americans, from the military personnel and air traffic controllers who would be asked to work without pay, to some 7 million people in the Women, Infants and Children program—including half the babies born in the U.S.—who could lose access to nutritional benefits, according to the White House.
There’s good news for some, however, and that includes Medicare recipients. Major governmental programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—members of a category known as “mandatory spending”—are largely unaffected because Congress has indefinitely approved spending for those programs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“Medicare services would largely continue as normal,” the AARP’s Dena Bunis and Kenneth Terrell wrote in an article published this week. The longer a shutdown lasts, however, the greater the chance that Medicare providers see a lag in payments.
For Medicare recipients with specific questions on how the shutdown might affect them, here’s what is known, according to experts.
I’m on Medicare. Would I still be able to access care during a shutdown?
Yes, according to the AARP. Even during a federal shutdown, Medicare members can still see their doctors, go to the hospital, and fill prescriptions.
I need to enroll in Medicare soon. Could a shutdown prevent me from doing this?
No, according to the AARP. Applications will still be taken at ssav.gov, and the Medicare hotline, 800-633-4227, will continue to work.
Medicare open enrollment is set to begin Oct. 15. Could a shutdown throw things off?
It shouldn’t, according to the AARP. “Even a prolonged shutdown wouldn’t be expected to affect the ability of beneficiaries to review their plans and make any changes,” Bunis and Terrell write. That’s because programs that advise enrollees are run by states.
What if I lose my Medicare card during a shutdown?
Unfortunately, you’d be out of luck until the end of the shutdown, according to the AARP. Why? Such cards are issued by the Social Security Administration, and it says it won’t issue cards during that time.
Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim, Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.