Health systems begin offering waivers for care to furloughed federal workers


A month into the longest government shutdown in history, RWJBarnabas Health announced it will waive co-pays, deductibles and additional eligible patient care balances for care provided to furloughed federal employees and their dependents during the government shutdown.

Effective immediately, the offer applies to all inpatient, outpatient, emergency and ambulatory-based care provided by RWJBarnabas Health facilities including its hospitals, ambulatory facilities and owned physician practices. The health system said it will also defer any payments those workers are obligated to make to the health system until their wages are reinstated.

"Affordability is a key factor in whether families can access care, and we believe that our action today can help alleviate some of the pressures these furloughed federal workers are currently facing," said Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, in statement. 

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RELATED: Federal shutdown mostly spares health coverage, but other issues loom

It is among the largest in a patchwork effort among healthcare providers and other private businesses to provide relief for government workers who have already missed one paycheck and are due to miss a second paycheck in a few days due to the partial shutdown. More than 800,000 workers nationwide have been impacted.

Other New Jersey hospitals including Hackensack Meridian Health, a 17-hospital health system, and Cape Regional Health System announced similar offers to waive expenses for care during the shutdown, the Press of Atlantic City reported.

Cinncinnati-based TriHealth said they won't bill federal workers for medical services until the partial shutdown of the U.S. government ends, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Philadelphia-based Temple University announced its dental school would be offering free dental care to furloughed government workers.

Insurers have made it clear furloughed federal employees' health coverage remains in effect. 

RELATED: Another impact of the government shutdown on healthcare? Legal delays

“Health care coverage for members of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program remains in place and active during the government shutdown," Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Senior Vice President of Government Programs William Breskin said in a statement. "We remain committed to the health and wellbeing of our members and want them to know that they will continue to have full access to their health care coverage during this time.”

Meanwhile, drug discount program GoodRx announced it would offer federal employees affected by the shutdown free membership to its premium prescription savings program, GoodRx Gold, which offers more than 1,000 common medications for less than $10 at pharmacies such as CVS, Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway and Vons.

Still, experts have warned that the longer the shutdown drags on, the more trouble federal workers will have covering basic health necessities with an increasing number of people finding themselves facing extenuating circumstances. 

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