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The US hit its debt ceiling. Are Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in danger?

The US hit its debt ceiling. Are Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in danger?

On Thursday, January 19, the United States crashed into the debt ceiling. The US Department of the Treasury is taking extraordinary measures to stave off a default but projects that those measures will be exhausted in early summer. Congress still has time to tackle the issue, but if it doesn’t, here’s how Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security could be affected:

Unlike in a shutdown, where Medicare payments typically keep flowing, it’s possible that payments will fluctuate if a default occurs. The chief difference here is that shutdowns typically impact federal employee salaries (e.g. – the operating budget) – there are still cash reserves and borrowing authority available to fund social programs. In a default, the government would have exceeded its borrowing authority, meaning it can now only spend the cash it has on hand and must prioritize that spending as it is able. That means a lot of uncertainty – for payers, providers, and patients.

The same is likely true for Medicaid – without congressional action, the federal government may not be able to fully fund its portion of the program.

Social Security payments, which comprise 17% of the federal budget, would likely continue to be funded – however, the agency may choose to delay or prorate payments to ensure it has cash on hand.

Regardless of what you think the solution is, take some time to reach out to your Senators and Representatives today. Solving this issue ensures your most vulnerable clients remain protected in the months and years to come.