Federal Shutdown Becoming Likely With 10 Days to Go

Reaching a federal budget accord in Congress by the April 8 deadline "appears increasingly difficult to achieve" making a government shutdown "more likely," according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Democrats and Republicans have already agreed on two stopgap measures to avert a federal shutdown and both now want to pass a budget bill for the rest of the year. They are substantially apart, however, on how much federal spending should be cut.

Effect on Medicare, Medicaid payments unclear

The White House is barring federal agencies from publicly discussing what they would do in a shutdown, according to a report by USA Today. In an e-mail to agencies last month, the Office of Management and Budget said the agencies "should not state or imply what functions would or would not be continued in the event of a funding gap."

In early March, before the last stopgap measure, CMS had not given any guidance to Medicare Administrative Contractors, the private companies that pay Medicare claims, on what they should do in a shutdown, according to a report by MedScape.

In the last federal shutdown, during the Clinton administration, the CMS did not pay the MACs, but the MACs continued to pay physicians and hospitals. There were actually two shutdowns then, one in Nov. 1995 lasting five days and another in Dec. 1995-Jan. 1996, lasting 21 days. In those instances, MACs processed and paid claims on a credit basis for CMS and were paid later.

Public sympathy leans toward GOP this time

Public sympathy in the 1995-1996 shutdowns went to the Clinton administration, forcing Congressional Republicans to back down. But an opinion poll, conducted by the Hill before the last stopgap measure expired, suggested public opinion would skew toward the GOP. Twenty-nine percent of likely voters would blame Democrats for a government shutdown, compared to 23 percent who would blame Republicans.

Reform, Medicare and Medicaid on the block

The Journal said one key difference between the parties is GOP-backed amendments in the House budget bill that would cut off funding for the healthcare reform law.

In the near future, Republicans are planning to make proposals to slow spending growth for entitlements, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, according to a report by NPR. "Most fiscal experts say tackling entitlements is unavoidable if the federal government is to ever gain control of the part of federal spending exerting the greatest upward pressure on spending," NPR added.

Read the Wall Street Journal report on the budget.

Read the USA Today report on the budget.

Read the Medscape report on the budget.

Read the report from The Hill on the budget.

Read the NPR report on the budget.

Read more coverage of efforts to avert a federal shutdown:

- House Okays New Stopgap Bill, But Won't Avoid Clash Next Time

- Stopgap Funding Signed; Averts Federal Shutdown For Two Weeks

- Republicans Plan to Withhold Healthcare Reform Funding

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