My fellow Americans, I don’t want to alarm you, but the government is in official shutdown mode! On Monday, lawmakers were unable to agree to a budget and neither the House nor the Senate wanted to back down. The shutdown appears to stem from one source, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as, Obamacare. The Republican-controlled House is refusing to sign the budget unless they can add a stipulation that essentially pushes the ACA law back one full year.
Since the Affordable Care Act law was passed in 2010, some lawmakers have continued to criticize it publicly to any reporter or television camera that will listen. A common theme among ACA opponents is their love of the Constitution, though most Americans remain confused about what one has to do with the other. Last night on the satirical political talk show The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart summed it up nicely when he referred to the GOP/Obamacare fight as, “The End of America as We Know It for Reasons No One is Able to Clearly Explain.”
While the government shutdown is clearly about health care, how will it actually affect health care? In addition to the furlough of nearly one million civilian federal employees, the closing of national parks and passport offices, and the temporary stoppage of other government functions, this is what you need to know for the impact this will have on your family’s well-being.
Food and Drug Administration
The government shutdown means most routine food inspections by the FDA will be temporarily suspended. So, if you were planning to eat lunch at that questionable burger stand on the corner, you know, the one that’s always seemed a little suspect, this is not the week to visit. During regularly scheduled routines, food recalls due to contamination have become almost routine. Buyer beware.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC has ceased disease surveillance. Bad news for people who want to buy a Capuchin monkey from that guy who hangs out at the airport. The CDC will now also lack funding for its annual flu vaccination program. At least for now, unlike Census.gov, their website remains live.
National Institutes of Health
New patients will not be accepted into clinical research, but current patients will continue to receive care.
Due to limited staffing, no new applications can be processed. Current Medicare recipients will continue to receive benefits.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program (WIC)
This program, which provides supplemental nutrition and health referrals to seven million infants and children, will be suspended on a federal level, though individual states may have extra money in their budgets to continue temporarily. Come on, Congress, come back to the table and reach an agreement. . . for the children.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Closed. Approximately three percent of EPA employees will be allowed to come to work and only those, “Whom the suspension of work would imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.” OK, we’ve got that goin’ for us at least.
Institutions and offices that may affect your daily life, but WILL NOT be interrupted during the government shutdown, include: Hospitals and clinics , 911 emergency dispatch centers, police and fire departments, and reduced school lunch programs.
The last time the government shutdown was 17 years ago during the Clinton era, it lasted 22 days. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail this time and lawmakers realize that the longer they argue over “policy wins” and “party victories” the longer the people who are most affected by them in the first place will be left to suffer.