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Federal government shuts down

October 1, 2013
by Mark Hagland, Editor-in-Chief, Healthcare Informatics
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As Sept. 30 turned to Oct. 1, the federal government officially began to shut down operations after a day of rapid-fire developments in Congress. As Long-Term Livng reported Monday, the shutdown was set in motion when the two houses of Congress—with the House of Representatives controlled by a Republican majority and the Senate controlled by a Democratic majority—went through a series of conflicting votes over a dispute that involved attempts by the Republican majority in the House to defund the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

A memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services informed federal employees that, among other things, "The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will stop work on the Standards and Interoperability Framework and on policy development." A source within the federal government also indicated that virtually all operations at the ONC would be affected by the shutdown.

With the shutdown now activated, federal departments must determine which services and federal employees are essential. Core Medicare and Medicaid operations will not be affected, but a broad range of other federal operations will be affected. Ironically, although one of the rationales for the actions that led to the shutdown related to the inclusion of ACA defunding amendments to the continuing resolution needed to keep federal government operations going, the ACA itself has largely been funded already and will not be directly affected.

As a result, the statewide health insurance exchanges that were created under the ACA also went live Oct. 1, as scheduled, allowing Americans to go online to evaluate and select new health insurance options, which will be available Jan. 1.

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