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What happens in a government shutdown?

September 30 marks the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, which makes early fall one key time when political contention sometimes brings the threat of a government shutdown.  Sometimes it remains merely a threat, but there were, in fact, shutdowns in 1995 (21 days) and in 2013 (16 days).  I am writing this post on September 30, 2015, and the New York Times is reporting today that it looks like a shutdown will be averted this year.

However, agencies prepared contingency plans for a 2015 shutdown – and you can read them on the website of the Office of Management and Budget here:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans

Modern Healthcare reported that a short shutdown would probably not have much impact on health care providers.  Medicare reimbursement comes from a trust fund separate from annual federal appropriations.  Veterans Affairs hospitals were expected to remain open.

A particular challenge for 2015 would be trying to implement the ICD-10 coding system at the time that a government shutdown would hit.


Herszenhorn, D.M. (2015, Sept. 30). Senate passes spending bill to avert government shutdown. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/us/politics/government-shutdown-congress.html?_r=0

Kessler, G. (2011, Feb. 25). Lessons from the great government shutdown of 1995-1996. The Washington Post. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2011/02/lessons_from_the_great_governm.html

Kutscher, B. (2015, Sept. 28). Prolonged government shutdown would affect providers. Modern Healthcare, 45(39), 4.  http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150926/MAGAZINE/309269941/prolonged-government-shutdown-would-affect-providers

Conn, J. (2015, Sept. 28). CMS preps for an upload and a shutdown. Modern Healthcare, 45(39), 4.  http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150926/MAGAZINE/309269940

Mercia, D. (2013, Oct. 4). 995 and 2013: three differences between two shutdowns. CNN Politicshttp://www.cnn.com/2013/10/01/politics/different-government-shutdowns/

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