The Department of Health and Human Services wouldn’t respond to questions about the automatic budget cuts and health law implementation. But both advocates and critics of the law expect HHS to use all the flexibility it can muster to keep it moving — although it could get harder if the sequestration is prolonged. [...]The federal funds for states that are setting up their own exchanges has already been dispersed, so the primary issue will be the federal exchange that has to be created in more than half the states. Those exchanges are scheduled to be open for enrollment this fall, with the federal subsidies to qualified enrollees starting next year. The big public relations push to advertise and educate about the new law will probably be picked up by Organizing for Action and a group of health care interest groups called Enroll America. Agencies also have flexibility in moving around about one percent of their budgets, amounting to about $750 million for HHS.
“Both for reasons of historical judgment and the plain and simple importance of giving this law the best possible shot at succeeding, I believe that money and staff will be found,” Henry Aaron, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an email to POLITICO. “If somebody has to be pulled off another task, they will be. If another contract has to be delayed, it will be.”
Key parts of the health law are exempt from the sequester, notably the money to subsidize insurance for eligible people and the Medicaid expansion. Those don’t start until 2014 anyway. But other administrative aspects, including set-up funds, are affected.
Of course, that will have the right wing in a frenzy. Get ready to hear about how Obama is stealing money from vital health programs to fund his socialist agenda.