The phrase “government shutdown” certainly sounds pretty ominous, but what exactly should seniors expect as the different factions continue to drag out this deadlock?
With any luck, seniors who participate in government sponsored programs like Medicare and Social Security will go largely unaffected. All indications show that Social Security benefit checks will continue to go out on time even as we approach day 10 of the shutdown. Medicare funding is also protected, making it immune to any annual budget debates. This is great news for seniors who rely on these programs to meet their basic needs.
The shutdown does mean that there will be fewer government employees to handle new benefit applications, issue replacement Social Security and Medicare cards, and process other paperwork. This might mean delays for some people seeking specific services. Otherwise, seniors will not see any change in their benefits.
However, the looming debt ceiling deadline of October 17, 2013 could have a significant impact on the amount of funds that Medicare providers receive. If Congress is unable to reach a solution, the automatic spending cuts that were put in motion in March as part of the sequestration will continue. This means a 2% reduction in Medicare payments for the 2014 fiscal year.
In the meantime, there is no obvious end in sight to the shutdown. And while it may seem counterintuitive, shutting down government agencies and services is actually costing tax payers millions of dollars. The last government shutdown in 1995 lasted 21 days and cost $1.4 billion. This means that the real financial impact of the government shutdown has yet to be seen.
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