The United States government has been under a partial shutdown now for three weeks, and many are beginning to worry about how this shutdown will affect them. One particularly frightening area where the government shutdown could affect people is through healthcare. Because many people are covered through government-funded healthcare, it’s a valid concern that their coverage will lapse.
Luckily, many of the federal government’s public health efforts are running as usual. Five of the major appropriations bills have already been passed by Congress, meaning about three-fourths of the federal government is funded. There are seven bills that are still outstanding, including ones that provide the funding for Interior, Agriculture and Justice departments. How does all of this affect healthcare in Oregon?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in place until September, so programs such as Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid are covered until then. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks health issues such as foodborne illnesses and the flu virus, is also funded. The National Institutes of Health, which oversees biomedical research, is also still running.
However, this doesn’t mean that all health-related areas are protected. The Food and Drug Administration receives significant funding through the Department of Agriculture spending bill, which is currently caught in the shutdown. Because of the lack of funding, 40 percent of the agency is now on furlough. However, drug approval and oversight and regulation of tobacco products are still occurring during this time.
Funding for the Indian Health Service has not yet been approved by Congress, meaning health services for Native Americans are currently on hold. The only services able to continue at this time are ones meeting the immediate needs of patients, medical staff and medical facilities. While IHS-run clinics around the country are currently still open and staffers are expected to show up to work, they aren’t receiving any pay.
The Environmental Protection Agency has lost its funding and has kept on 700 employees without pay, furloughing more than 13,000. Those kept on are those working on Superfund sites or other activities where there is an imminent threat to life or property. This means the agency’s capacity for activities such as inspecting drinking water and regulating pesticides are limited.