How the Government Shutdown will Affect Medicare

government shutdown next to woman with medicare card

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are out of work or working without pay due to the current government shutdown that was announced on December 22. Even though it’s a partial shutdown, it’s unavoidable that it would have some effect on important government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Here’s the extent of the damage.

How will Medicare be affected?

Because Medicare is an entitlement program and not a discretionary program, Medicare benefits are not subject to the appropriation process. That means your benefits are safe; Medicare will remain mostly unaffected by the shutdown because it is deemed essential and mandatory spending. The biggest interruptions Medicare will face include a delay in the processing of reimbursements and new enrollment applications.

Other programs like Medicaid, Social Security, and the VA will also remain mostly unaffected by the shutdown, and the U.S. Postal Service will remain open, so checks will still arrive in the mail. However, you may experience longer lines and wait times if you visit or call your local Social Security office.

How does a shutdown work?

During this particular government shutdown, 400,000 federal employees are expected to work without pay and another 350,000 employees will be furloughed, or granted an involuntary leave of absence without pay. Furloughed employees will still have jobs when the shutdown ends and will retain their benefits in the meantime. Agencies expected to work without pay include the Secret Service, Border Patrol, and airport security officers.

Why is the shutdown happening?

The shutdown comes down to a spending argument and Democrats being unwilling to pass a funding bill that would allocate $5.7 billion for a border wall.

President Trump warned that the shutdown could “last a very long time.”

“We are totally prepared for a very long shutdown,” he said, “and this is our only chance that we’ll ever have, in our opinion, because of the world and the way it breaks out, to get great border security.”

He also encouraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pursue a “nuclear option” which would allow a spending bill to pass in the Senate with a 51 vote majority instead of the usual 60 votes. However, McConnell has not yet pursued this option.

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