Government Reopens with Affordable Care Act in Place

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On October 17, President Obama signed the bill titled the “Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014” (the “Act”) ending the 16-day government shutdown and lifting the nation’s debt limit.   The Senate voted 81-18 in favor of the Act, while the House of Representatives voted 285-144 in favor.  The Act provides funding for the federal government through January 15, 2014 and increases the debt limit through February 7, 2014. 

Although the Affordable Care Act was the subject of much debate during the shutdown, including attempts to defund it, the law was left largely untouched, except for the following: (1)  by January 1, 2014, the Secretary of HHS must submit a report to Congress that details the procedures employed by American Health Benefit Exchanges to verify eligibility for credits and cost-sharing reductions, and (2) by July 1, 2014, the HHS Inspector General must submit to Congress a report regarding the effectiveness of the procedures and safeguards provided under the Affordable Care Act for preventing the submission of inaccurate or fraudulent information by applicants for enrollment in a qualified health plan offered through an exchange.

Although Medicare claims processing activities continued during the shutdown, the PRRB was closed during this time.  With the reopening, providers with PRRB appeal deadlines should ensure such deadlines are timely met, as responses due to the PRRB during the shutdown generally became due as of the reopening.  The federal Judiciary remained open during the shutdown, as fund balances were sufficient to allow courts to operate through October 18, with all proceedings and deadlines in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised.   Additionally, while CMS survey and certification activities deemed “non-essential,” such as initial certification activities and revisit surveys not required to prevent termination of Medicare participation, were suspended during the shutdown, CMS should now be reviewing its backlog of certification and related requests. 

Reporter, Christina A. Gonzalez, Houston, +1 713 276 7340, cagonzalez@kslaw.com.