Government shutdown won't stop Obamacare

The government may shut down starting at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, but because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges are considered mandatory spending, they'll still open as planned.
Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  Sept. 30, 2013 at 11:59 AM
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Capitol Hill rhetoric aside, Obamacare exchanges will be open for business Tuesday, with or without a government shutdown.

Conservatives in Congress have been pushing a hard line in negotiations over the government funding bill, with the GOP-controlled House of Representatives insisting on undercutting the Affordable Care Act provisions as a condition for not shutting the government down.

But despite all their efforts to defund the law, Obamacare is part of a portion of federal spending that isn't touched by the current funding negotiations, which only deals with discretionary spending. The insurance exchanges -- some funded by the federal government and others state-run -- are considered mandatory spending and won't be affected by the shutdown.

“On Tuesday, about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality, affordable health care, just like anybody else,” President Barack Obama said on Friday. The exchanges “will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what -- even if there’s a government shutdown. That’s a done deal.”

Certain government services, including those considered "activities that involve the safety of human life and protection of property," keep running in spite of a potential government shutdown. The Department of Health and Human Services, which posted its contingency plan Friday, identified the exchanges as falling under that category.

Medicare and Medicaid will also "continue largely without disruption," HHS said.

Additionally, funds have already been doled out to staff and operate the 16 state- and District of Columbia-run exchanges, and mandatory funds have already been appropriated to operate the 34 exchanges being set up by the federal government.

“Several HHS agencies have substantial mandatory, carryover or user fee funds which are not affected by a hiatus in annual appropriations, with [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] having the most mandatory funds,” the HHS plan states.

Depending on the length of the shutdown, the operation of the various exchanges could be strained by furloughs, but they will likely still remain open.

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