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How Does a Government Shutdown Affect Medicare?

Summary: A government shutdown does not directly affect your Medicare benefits. However, you could be indirectly affected by reduced staff and long wait times. Estimated Read Time: 3 min

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Table of Contents:

  1. What is a U.S. Government Shutdown?
  2. What Happens to Medicare if the Government Shuts Down?
  3. Is Social Security Affected by a Government Shutdown?
  4. Who Sees The Largest Impact of a Government Shutdown?
  5. How to Prepare for A Government Shutdown With Medicare

As the concern of a United States government shutdown grows, you may be wondering what that means for you. More specifically, as a Medicare recipient, you may be wondering how a U.S. government shutdown might affect your Medicare coverage or Social Security benefits.

Below, we answer all your impending questions regarding Medicare and a government shutdown.

What is a U.S. Government Shutdown?

A United States government shutdown occurs when Congress is unable to pass the annual spending budget before the start of the new fiscal year. Meaning if no budget has been agreed on and signed into law by the President by October 1, the start of the fiscal year, the government runs out of money and will essentially “shutdown”. In 2023, as we grew closer to the Midnight hour on November 30, Congress passed a temporary bill that would extend the current budget until mid-November to avoid a government shutdown. However, if a new budget is not passed by the end of the extension, a shutdown will be the outcome.

During a government shutdown, non-essential federal spending comes to a halt. This means millions of federal workers across the country could face furlough or may be required to continue working but without pay. The government does require backpay for these essential workers once a budget has been passed. However, that has not always been the case.

What Happens to Medicare if the Government Shuts Down?

During a government shutdown, your Medicare benefits are not affected. As a necessary service, Medicare will continue to process claims and provide healthcare insurance to its millions of recipients. However, processing new Original Medicare applications may begin to slow.

CMS predicts that nearly 51% of its staff will be furloughed during a government shutdown, while the remaining 49% continue to perform necessary services. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services is estimated to furlough nearly 42% of its total staff members.

So, while new Original Medicare applications will be processed as quickly as possible, there could be longer than normal wait times to receive your Medicare cards in the mail. If you do not receive your Medicare cards until after your benefits go into effect, you will still be able to utilize your benefits. You should communicate the issue with your physician’s office billing departments and provide them with your Medicare information as soon as it is available to you.

Additionally, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period should not be affected by a shutdown, as the changes made during this time are typically done through a licensed insurance agent rather than through a government employee.

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Is Social Security Affected by a Government Shutdown?

During a government shutdown, you will continue to receive your Social Security payments on time and in full. Like Medicare, there will be no effect on this essential government program.

Additional services that will continue through the Social Security Administration include:

  • Application for benefits
  • Requests of appeals
  • Payee changes
  • Direct contact reinstatement of benefits
  • Issuance of original and replacement cards
  • Initial claims

However, it is essential to keep in mind that an already understaffed Social Security Administration may be the cause for even longer wait times during the government shutdown. They are expected to furlough around 13% of employees during this time.

Who Sees The Largest Impact of a Government Shutdown?

A federal government shutdown affects all Americans, even if your job is not on the line. There are several government services and government-ran departments that could see a halt in funding while the government is shutdown. Without funding, these services would stop altogether. Some areas that would be impacted include:

  • Military
  • WIP and SNAP benefits
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • National Parks
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Education grants
  • Postal services
  • Veterans services

In addition to government services, people often wonder how a government shutdown impacts the stock market and the economy. While historically, a shutdown has not had a significant impact on the markets, that doesn’t mean it is always the case. A government shutdown, depending on its length, could cause some concern in the market as many individuals go without pay.

How to Prepare for A Government Shutdown With Medicare

If you are a Medicare recipient, there is no need to worry about a looming government shutdown. Your benefits will provide the same coverage, and you’ll even be able to see your doctors, fill prescriptions, and purchase durable medical equipment during this time. However, you will want to have a copy of your Medicare card, legal power-of-attorney paperwork, and caregiver documents on hand, as you may experience longer wait times if you need replacement information during this time.

Additionally, to help reduce your Medicare-related out-of-pocket costs, we can help you review Medicare Advantage plans and compare Medicare Supplement plans in your area. Complete our online rate form to get started!

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MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. How Medicare Would Be Affected By A Government Shutdown, Kiplinger. Accessed September 2023.
  2. What a government shutdown would mean for Medicare beneficiaries, FortuneWell. Accessed September 2023.
  3. How a government shutdown would affect Medicare, Medicaid benefits, Washington Post. Accessed September 2023.
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.


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