Report: Government Shutdown Won’t Affect Obamacare

Sen. Coburn: ‘Shutting down the federal government does not shut down Obamacare’
Sen. Tom Coburn / AP

Sen. Tom Coburn / AP


Obamacare will continue if Congress fails to agree to a temporary spending measure and the federal government shuts down at the end of September, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) revealed in a memo Monday.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) requested CRS to examine the effect of a shutdown on Obamacare.

“The memo reveals that if government were shut down, funding for Obamacare would still continue,” Coburn’s office said in a summary of the memo. “In other words, shutting down the federal government does not shut down Obamacare.”

The Affordable Care Act authorized mandatory spending that is not affected by annual appropriations bills, CRS explained, leaving the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies with ample funding to continue implementing the law.

HHS has crafted a “shutdown contingency plan … in anticipation of a possible government shutdown in FY2012.”

Subsidies for health insurance coverage are mandatory under the statute and would continue under a shutdown, CRS said.

The law’s revenue-raising provisions would also remain in effect under a shutdown if the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement powers were temporarily suspended.

“During the time period that the government is shut down, taxpayers who fall within the coverage of the individual mandate would still be accruing penalties for any months in which they lacked minimum essential coverage,” CRS said.

“While some enforcement and collection activities may be unavailable during a government shutdown,” the report said, citizens who do not purchase insurance will still be required under law to pay the mandate penalty.

Coburn highlighted CRS’s mention of a 1996 government shutdown during which the Social Security Administration continued to function.

Coburn has been critical of efforts by some Republican colleagues, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Tx.) to remove monies for Obamacare from any continuing resolution that funds the government.

Coburn called the effort “dishonest” in a recent interview with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York.

Lachlan Markay   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Lachlan Markay is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He comes to the Beacon from the Heritage Foundation, where he was the conservative think tank's first investigative reporter. He was also a contributing editor for His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the Washington Examiner. He graduated from Hamilton College in 2009, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @lachlan. His email address is

Get the news that matters most to you, delivered straight to your inbox daily.

Register today!