The long-awaited debut of the Affordable Care Act was facing enough obstacles without a government shutdown tossed in the mix. But the insurance exchanges just launched by states and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services appear to be affected far more by a deluge of online traffic and software glitches than by absent employees.
That’s because, while the Health and Human Services Department as a whole has furloughed 40,000 of 78,000 total employees, most staffers working to implement the health care law are paid through mandatory spending. That assures, the HHS shutdown staffing plan notes, continued “coordination between Medicaid and the Marketplace, as well as insurance rate reviews, and assessment of a portion of insurance premiums that are used on medical services.”
Here’s how an HHS spokesman explained it to Government Executive:
Since many of the core parts of the health law are funded through mandatory appropriations, the ACA is up and running. The current funding lapse does not impact the core of what we are doing. Spending for the Marketplace advance premium tax credit is mandatory spending, just like Medicare payments, and therefore the Marketplace launch will continue to ensure that Americans have access to the coverage to which they are entitled under the Affordable Care Act. Contracts associated with both the federal and state Marketplaces will also remain in place and the contractors' work will move forward in support of ACA implementation. Some of these contracts are funded with mandatory dollars, and others are supported by sources that are not impacted by the lapse in appropriations.