The government shutdown between President Trump’s administration and congressional Democrats regarding funding of the “border wall” leaves many with questions regarding its immediate impact on changing current healthcare systems. While the ongoing partial government shutdown leaves the majority of the federal government’s public health programs unaffected, the lack of funding to specific departments has the potential to alter some important health-related initiatives.
Due to the passing of five major appropriation bills by Congress, the funding of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs has remained. This funding dampens immediate large-scale negative impacts because many government healthcare programs such as Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid are insulated and funded through September. Additionally, two other critical unaffected departments are the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, allowing for the continuation of public health surveillance and significant biomedical research respectively. Unfortunately, other government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration are greatly affected. Due to the Department of Agriculture being completely shut down, the FDA is currently only operating at 60% of regular employees leading to potential problems regarding regulations and mandatory recalls of possible harmful goods.
Another detrimental effect of the government shutdown is an impact on the Indian Health Service (IHS). The IHS receives all of its funding from the recently shut down Department of the Interior, which has had widespread consequences to Native American tribes. The only services that can continue in these areas are “immediate needs of the patients, medical staff and medical facilities” and this lack of funding has been extended to suspending grants and other IHS health programs.
Well-known departments and agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency have already been displaying negative aftermath of the government shutdown with all signs pointing to large detrimental effects if this continues for an extended period. Health inspectors at the United States borders and the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office have already faced setbacks causing increased concern regarding possible decreased safety of US citizens. Furthermore, even the National Park Service has ceased all restroom maintenance and trash service due to funding leading to closures of popular parks such as Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Park due to unsanitary conditions.