Many may wonder what a government shutdown means for the nation’s public health battles against threats like the flu and the opioid crisis.
In a shutdown, contingency plans allow the federal government to meet most short-term health care needs. Most American hospitals are privately run. Public hospitals are, with very few exceptions, run by state and local governments, which aren’t directly affected. No one will be turned away at the emergency room because of a shutdown.
There are, however, plenty of federally funded programs and a few medical facilities that are immediately affected. The federal government is also likely to take longer to respond to emerging health crises, as non-essential personnel is sent home.
Let’s take a look at what can be expected:
Most federal funding for direct patient care is appropriated separately from the budget negotiations causing the shutdown. So, Medicare and Medicaid will be mostly unaffected, for example.
There’s also a separate appropriation to sustain medical care for veterans. The shutdown does affect the Department of Health, though, and Human Services.
HHS provides direct patient care only in a few cases, but Indian Health Services is under its purview. Thankfully, there will be no disruptions in those services, because nearly every IHS employee is considered essential.
The National Health Institute Clinical Center provides medical services, primarily for patients participating in medical studies funded by the federal government. Patients already admitted will continue to receive care, but there will be no new clinical study admissions during the shutdown.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urgent response to disease outbreaks, like the this year’s record-breaking flu, will continue without disruption.
However, federal investigations of new disease outbreaks will be substantially slower during the shutdown. It will also take longer for the CDC to disseminate crucial national public health information to hospitals and doctors.
The federal government also ensures the safety and well-being of Americans through food inspections, which will mainly continue without disruption.
While the law mandates that the essential personnel who protect life and property must remain at work, these government workers will not receive pay during the shutdown.
Original text: The Conversation