Even if the federal government shuts down, doctors will continue to get paid to see Medicare or Medicaid patients. They will however face delays as they register to provide care under the programs.
Congress must pass a $1 trillion spending bill by Friday to pay for all agencies of government or trigger a partial shutdown that would start Saturday. The last government shutdown was in 2013. But the lack of legislative action since President Donald Trump took office has many wondering if this year might see another shutdown.
Trump is pushing to include funding for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, something Democrats vehemently oppose.
The spending bill needs Democratic votes in the Senate despite Republicans controlling both chambers. The GOP has a slim majority of 52 seats in the Senate, but 60 votes are required to pass the legislation.
Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the Medical Group Management Association, says he's not worried about how a shutdown would affect physician payments.
He said the 2013 government shutdown didn't cause Medicare contractors to shut down or have immediate funding issues. Medicaid payments also continued during that time, according to an HHS notice.
However, providers just now registering to participate or renewing in a Medicaid or the Medicare network likely will face delays in getting reimbursement since the staff might not be available to process those requests.
"Fewer recertification and initial surveys for Medicare and Medicaid providers would be completed, putting beneficiaries at risk of quality of care deficiencies," HHS said in its most recent shutdown contingency plan, posted in late 2015.
The CMS' fraud and abuse activities will be curtailed due to the loss of discretionary funding, the agency said in the notice.
Overall, HHS anticipates it would have to put 51%, or 40,659, of its employees across various agencies on unpaid leave.
The 16-day 2013 shutdown had a limited effect on providers despite skeletal crews at many federal agencies.