Sequester: What Will Happen, What Won't Happen and What We Don't Know


What Won't Happen Saturday

Many of the sequester's worst consequences purportedly will arise from government worker furloughs, which can't happen right away. In most cases, government workers must be notified 30 days before their workdays are cut and, in some cases, longer, according to Office of Personnel Management Guidelines.

Here are some sequester effects that won't befall us until early April at the soonest:

      Fewer Commercial Flights. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has warned that fewer air traffic controllers could mean backed up commercial air traffic. An FAA official estimated that furloughs won't begin until April 7.

      Fewer FBI Agents and a Greater Threat of Terrorism. FBI Director Robert Mueller has warned that cuts at the FBI will weaken the bureau's capability to break up terrorist plots. Those warnings have centered on FBI furloughs, which can't begin immediately. The FBI would not comment on the timing, and the Justice Department did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

      Longer Airport Security Lines. TSA workers won't be furloughed immediately. Instead, the agency intends to first implement a hiring freeze. That, along with cuts to overtime, will mean airport security lines gradually will get longer, but they won't be backed up this morning.

A statement from TSA, provided to ABC News: "Travelers will likely not see immediate impacts at airport security checkpoints on March 1, but lines and wait times will increase as reductions to overtime and the inability to backfill positions for attrition occur. While wait times can vary on a number of factors, if sequestration goes into effect, TSA will put in place a hiring freeze, which will result in up to an additional 1,000 TSO vacancies by Memorial Day weekend and up to 2,600 vacancies by the end of the fiscal year. With TSA staffing levels decreasing over time, we expect that during busy travel periods wait times exceeding 30-40 minutes could double at nearly all of the largest airports. In addition, passengers who schedule their travel outside of peak flight schedules and plan to arrive close to their scheduled flight time may see their wait times now reach 30 minutes or more."

      More Porous Border. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned that furloughs to Customs and Border Patrol personnel will make it difficult to maintain security across U.S. borders. Again, this possibility rests on furloughs that can't happen immediately.

  • Meat and Poultry Shortage. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has indicated that a nationwide meat and poultry shortage could be in the offing, as the FDA's inspections will be cut. This, too, would arise from furloughs to inspectors. The FDA declined to comment on when those furloughs will begin.

          Smaller Medicare Payments to Doctors, Hospitals. While Medicare benefits are protected, payments to Medicare providers (doctors and hospitals) will shrink by 2 percent. That won't happen until April 1, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS says cuts will also affect Parts C and D: "Furthermore, CMS is prepared to take sequestration into account when they calculate the April monthly payment amount for Part C and D plans on March 21st and communicate the amount to plans on March 22," an official said.

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