Daily Briefing

Around the nation: What a government shutdown could mean for healthcare


As the probability of a government shutdown becomes more likely, uncertainty looms in the healthcare industry over which federal departments would remain open and which programs could be affected, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia and Washington.

  • District of Columbia: As the probability of a government shutdown becomes more likely, uncertainty looms in the healthcare industry over which federal departments would remain open and which programs could be affected. A large portion of the federal healthcare apparatus would be unaffected, including Medicare and Medicaid, and according to President Joe Biden's proposed budget for fiscal year 2024, 91% of HHS spending is categorized as mandatory and not subject to yearly appropriations bills or periodic reauthorizations. However, around half of staffers at CMS would be furloughed during a shutdown, and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said earlier this month that a government shutdown would likely push back the timeline for drug price negotiations. An extended shutdown would likely have a larger effect on the healthcare industry. According to Larry Levitt, an EVP at KFF, "there are many programs where individual clinics or mental health programs depend on federal grants or funding, which could stop particularly with an extended shutdown." In an effort to provide temporary aid to hospitals and health centers, the Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would fund the federal government through Nov. 17 and temporarily reauthorize disproportionate share hospital payments, the federally qualified health centers program, and other healthcare initiatives. It would also extend special diabetes programs and fund HHS public health functions. (McAuliff, Modern Healthcare, 9/26 [1]; Rovner, KFF Health News, 9/27; Roubein, Washington Post, 9/25; McAuliff, Modern Healthcare, 9/26 [2])
  • District of Columbia: President Biden on Friday signed into law a bill that will enable HRSA to seek bids from for-profit and nonprofit organizations to participate in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Since 1986, the United Network for Organ Sharing has operated as the sole contractor for organ transplants, overseeing organ matches, logistics, information technology, and patient safety. Proponents of the new law say the new system will improve patient safety and more fairly distribute organs. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a lead sponsor of the bill, called Friday a "banner day in the effort to improve the organ transplant system in the United States. For too long, thousands of families have had to watch a loved one struggle while waiting for an organ transplant because the system has been inefficient and unaccountable. With this law, that starts to change." (Berryman, Modern Healthcare, 9/22)
  • Washington: Costco is teaming up with online platform Sesame to offer same-day virtual primary care visits with no wait times for $29 for Costco members. A standard lab panel alongside a consult will cost members $72 while a virtual therapy visit will cost $79. Sesame specifically operates outside of insurance networks, catering to the uninsured and those who either pay out of pocket or have high-deductible health plans. "Quality, great value, and low price are what the Costco brand is known for," said David Goldhill, co-founder and CEO of Sesame. "When it comes to health care, Sesame also delivers high quality and great value — and a low price that will be appreciated by Costco members when it comes to their own care." (Bettelheim, Axios, 9/26; Commins, HealthLeaders Media, 9/25)

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