Government Shutdown Cuts Half of HHS Staff as Exchanges Open
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
by: Policy Team

Section: Public Policy and Advocacy




The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) began enrollment Oct. 1 on the health insurance exchanges on the same day as the nation’s first government shutdown in 17 years.
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) began enrollment Oct. 1 on the health insurance exchanges on the same day as the nation’s first government shutdown in 17 years. 
 
With only hours to go before a shutdown, the Senate rejected another House measure that would delay the law's individual mandate for a year and eliminate health insurance subsidies for members of Congress, their staff and political appointees.
 
HHS said the shutdown would force the department to furlough 40,512 employees, or about 52% of its workforce, the department announced in its contingency plan (PDF). Nevertheless, the department's HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said it would not affect the launch of open enrollment on the ACA's health insurance exchanges.  She also said HHS also plans to “turn up the volume” on its educational efforts in the next six months through television ads, traditional and social media, and in-person conversations.
 
On Sept. 30, senior HHS officials provided a demonstration of what consumers will see when they visit HealthCare.govto sign up for coverage. The online application allows users to see how much they've completed in the process at any given time and what they have left until their application is completed.

HHS officials dismissed the suggestion that there doesn't appear to be a large number of hospitals designated as certified application counselors to help people learn about the exchanges and enroll. According to one official, thousands of people have applied to become application counselors and HHS has seen hospitals across the country that want to be actively engaged in helping people in their communities get coverage.
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