Congress has until Saturday to prevent a government shutdown that could have severe consequences for the U.S. economy and millions of Americans reliant on federal services. A proposed bipartisan stopgap measure to fund the government through November 17 is facing opposition from a growing number of House Republicans due to supplemental funding for Ukraine. President Biden issued a warning to these conservative Republicans, stressing that funding the government is a fundamental responsibility of Congress. The potential shutdown would have wide-ranging effects, including unpaid work for military personnel and air traffic controllers, as well as a potential loss of nutritional benefits for millions of Americans in the Women, Infants, and Children program.
Despite the potential hardships caused by a government shutdown, Medicare recipients can breathe a sigh of relief as their access to care remains largely unaffected. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security fall under the category of “mandatory spending” and have been approved for spending by Congress indefinitely. Medicare services would continue as normal, according to the AARP, although there could be payment delays for healthcare providers if the shutdown lasts longer. Medicare recipients can still access care, visit doctors, go to hospitals, and fill prescriptions during a shutdown.
Enrollment for Medicare is also expected to proceed unaffected by a potential shutdown. The application process will continue on the ssav.gov website, and the Medicare hotline will remain operational. The upcoming Medicare open enrollment on October 15 is not expected to be disrupted either, as program advisement for enrollees is handled by states and should not be affected by the shutdown. However, individuals who lose their Medicare cards during a shutdown will face difficulties, as the Social Security Administration will not issue new cards until the end of the shutdown.