Joseph Daskalakis’ son Oliver was born on New Year’s Eve, a little over a week into the current government shutdown, and about 10 weeks before he was expected.
The prematurely born baby ended up in a specialized neonatal intensive care unit, the only one near the family’s home in Lakeville, Minn., that could care for him.
But Daskalakis, who works as an air traffic controller outside Minneapolis, has an additional worry: The hospital where his newborn son is being treated is not part of his current insurer’s network and the partial government shutdown prevents Daskalakis from filing the paperwork necessary to switch insurers, as he would otherwise be allowed to do
As a result, he could be on the hook for a hefty bill — all the while not receiving pay. Daskalakis is just one example of federal employees for whom being unable to make changes to their health plans really matters.
Although the estimated 800,000 government workers affected by the shutdown won’t lose their health insurance, an unknown number are in limbo like Daskalakis — unable to add family members such as spouses, newborns or adopted children to an existing health plan; unable to change insurers because of unforeseen circumstances; or unable deal with other issues that might arise.
“With 800,000 employees out there, I imagine that this is not a one-off event,” says Dan Blair, who served as both acting director and deputy director of the federal Office of Personnel Management during the early 2000s and is now senior counselor at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “The longer this goes on, the more we will see these types of occurrences.”