At midnight on Tuesday, Oct. 1, the federal government of the United States officially began a process to shut down operations, after a day of rapid-fire developments in the U.S. Congress on Monday, Sep. 30. As Healthcare Informatics reported on Monday evening, 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).
As HCI's previous story noted, a memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) 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 to HCI that virtually all operations at ONC would be affected by the shutdown.
With the shutdown now activated, federal departments are are required to 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 impacted. Ironically, though one of the rationales for the the actions that led to the shutdown on Oct. 1 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 at midnight on Oct. 1, as scheduled, allowing Americans to go online to evaluate and select new health insurance options, which will be available on Jan. 1, 2014.
Healthcare Informatics will continue to update its readers on developments in this situation.