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What Happens to the 7-8% of Medicare Members Who Use the VA During a Government Shutdown?

The once remote threat of a government shutdown has become an immediate probability. As Aaron Blake wrote in today’s Washington Post, the “government looks quite likely to shut down at midnight.” One of the more complicated elements of government shutdowns is understanding the impact on services. What government agencies cease operations? Which continue?

At BeneLynk, we serve Medicare Advantage plans to help them identify and document care Medicare Advantage members receive at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. According to a 2016 GAO report, between 7 and 8% of Medicare recipients receive some care at VA facilities every year. So, what happens to these members during a government shutdown? And what other impacts might a Medicare Advantage plan expect?

According to the VA Contingency Plan for 2017-2018, since advance appropriations account for 86% of the VA’s discretionary budget, the VA is in a fortunate position relative to other government agencies. Because of this pre-funding of VA expenditures, 95.5% of VA employees will continue working uninterrupted.

The Veterans Health Administration is projected to continue operations during a government shutdown. This means that Medicare patients who have chosen to utilize VA facilities will be able to do so without significant impact. No VHA functions will be suspended. This also means that BeneLynk will be able to continue to extract documentation showing the care that our Medicare members receive at facilities in an uninterrupted fashion.

As Dr. David Shulkin, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs said in an interview in April, “The VA is in a fortunate situation in that we have what’s called an advanced appropriations. So we get our money a year ahead of time, because, I think, Congress understands the VA can’t shut down.”

Medicare Advantage plans (whether BeneLynk client or not) with questions about how their current members use the VA and how a government shutdown might change things are encouraged to reach out to Sean Libby, President of BeneLynk, at

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