Shutdown would not affect NYS health exchange

The federal government shutdown will not derail the opening of New York's health benefit exchange Tuesday, experts and officials said.

And even a long-term federal closure should have little impact on the exchange, they said.

Despite a congressional standoff over GOP attempts to delay for a year implementing the Affordable Care Act, New York's exchange, an online marketplace of health insurance plans for individuals, their families and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, is set to open Tuesday.


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"We're full steam ahead," Stacy Villagran said Monday of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, one of three lead agencies on Long Island appointed by the state to help people navigate the exchange, called NY State of Health. "We're as ready as we're going to be."

Experts said New York should not be affected because funding is not subject to annual federal appropriations. The state has already received $370 million in federal funds, said state health department spokesman Bill Schwarz, "and we don't anticipate disruptions regarding future funding needs."

Moreover, as one of 17 states that chose to establish its own exchange, it is less reliant on the federal government's direction. Other states have opted to use a federal exchange or establish a state-federal hybrid.

That means, for instance, that New York's small business exchange will not be delayed like the federal versions. The government said last week the federal exchanges won't be able to accept online applications from small businesses until Nov. 1 because of technological problems.

Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and expert in health care law, said the shutdown "shouldn't have an immediate impact on New York's exchange." "If the money is already appropriated and allocated, it would still continue to flow," he said. Asked about the potential long-term impact of a shutdown, he said, "I think New York's exchange would be the least of our country's problems."

James Knickman, president of the nonprofit New York State Health Foundation, agreed. "Frankly I think the economy would melt down before the ACA," he said. He said much of the funding for the law isn't subject to annual appropriations.

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