Obama: Gov't shutdown won't delay healthcare exchange launch


By Lewis Krauskopf

Sept 27 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Fridaythat the new state insurance exchanges created by his healthcarereform law will launch as scheduled on Tuesday even if thefederal government shuts down due to Republican efforts todefund Obamacare.

The new online health exchanges at the heart of Obama'sAffordable Care Act are set to open for enrollment on Oct. 1after years of political attack, offering subsidized healthcoverage for millions of uninsured Americans. Conservativelawmakers in Congress are pushing to cut out spending for thehealthcare law at the threat of shutting down the government onthe same day.

"On Tuesday, about 40 million more Americans will be able tofinally buy quality affordable healthcare just like anybodyelse," Obama said in a speech addressing the potential for ashutdown.

"Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday, nomatter what, even if there's a government shutdown. That's adone deal."

Obama's statement confirmed speculation that the exchangeswould operate regardless of Congress' actions.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department, the branch ofthe government overseeing the law's implementation, released itscontingency plan on Friday in the event of a potential shutdown.

The department's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servicesbranch "would continue large portions of ACA activities,"according to a document on its Website.

That includes coordination between the Medicaid program forlow-income Americans and the insurance marketplaces. Insurancerate reviews and assessments of what portion of premium revenueinsurance companies spend on medical services would alsocontinue.

The document said that certain funding for healthcare reformwas mandatory and "not affected by a hiatus in annualappropriations," such as the ACA Mandatory Program Managementand the ACA Implementation Fund.

The Medicare program for the elderly would also "continuelargely without disruption," in the short term. States wouldalso have funding for Medicaid.

Regarding other HHS agencies, the Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention would continue "minimal support" in theUnited States and abroad to respond to outbreak investigations,processing lab samples and maintaining an emergency operationscenter.

The Food and Drug Administration would continue activitiesto handle emergencies such as high-risk recalls, but "will beunable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition,and cosmetics activities."

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