Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Government Shutdown Affects National Health, But Not Obamacare

Heading into Week 2 of the shutdown, we are already seeing the effects of the government shutdown on federally-funded programs that effect American's health. Here are a few of the big ones:

- 92% of the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) staff members have been furloughed, effectively freezing the $400 million operation. The AHRQ provides crucial grants, research and recommendations for consumers and health care professionals in order to improve health care delivery and quality. 

- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suspended its seasonal influenza program, resulting in reduced outbreak detection efforts and halting efforts to assist states with infectious disease monitoring. Just in time for flu season when these programs are needed most!

- The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has suspended certain health care fraud and abuse detection efforts, halting ongoing investigations and leaving the programs more vulnerable to new attacks. 

- The Department of Agriculture has furloughed more than a thousand food safety and inspection workers. Lo and behold, a Salmonella outbreak emerged this week that has sickened 300 people in 18 states and rages on, while a barebones staff of officials attempt to coordinate already delayed interstate investigations.   

- The FDA has furloughed roughly half of its employees, halting numerous safety activities, including routine inspections, import monitoring and laboratory research needed to inform public health decision-making.

- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is not accepting new clinical care patients or awarding new grants, stifling groundbreaking medical research.

In light of these delays, the mandatory spending established for implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has not been effected. Enrollment efforts are moving full steam ahead since last week's launch, as thousands of individuals are already pre-enrolling for health care coverage through and Covered California here at the state level. While a few opponents are continuing their last gasp effort to defund or delay the law, this marks the beginning of the end of the 'repeal' rhetoric.