Government Shutdown Impacts Health Agencies

The government shutdown is taking its toll on agencies across the country. While some significant health agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration are open, others, like the Indian Health Service, are shutting their doors for the foreseeable future. The shutdown comes after seven significant bills, including spending bills for the Justice, Interior, and Agriculture department, stalled in Congress this December. Many of the big-ticket healthcare items, like “Obamacare,” Medicaid, and Medicare, have already passed Congress. These items, with their funding secured, run for sure into September.

The Center for Disease Control and The National Institutes of Health are seeing much more staff during the shutdown than last year. Last year, half of all Health and Human Services staff didn’t receive payment during the government shutdown. The reason they’re receiving full funding? The spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services passed Congress. Some branches under other governmental departments, like the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Drug Administration, are suffering.

A handful of health departments, like the Indian Health Service, weren’t so lucky. The Indian Health Service, which oversees all medical care administered on the Native American reservations, is on an emergency contingency plan. The IHS, which is under the purview of the Department of the Interior, currently isn’t receiving funding. However, staffers of these clinics are reporting to work, as the government deems them “expected” employees. They will receive pay for the work that they do during the shutdown after the government returns to normal operations.

Other significant public health efforts, like those mounted by the Environmental Protection Agency and Homeland Security, are being put on hold. Only 65 of the 204 employees working for Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs, which oversees pandemics, biological weapons, and chemical attacks, are at work. 700 of the 13,000 Environmental Protection Agency employees, many of whom work on Superfund sites, are reporting to work.

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