WebMD Medical News
Daniel J. DeNoon
Laura J. Martin, MD
April 8, 2011 -- What does a government shutdown mean for our health? Here's WebMD's FAQ, with answers to questions from WebMD readers and staff.
Most government health services are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. During the government shutdown, 62% of HHS employees will not be allowed to work.
The remaining 38% of HHS employees will continue to administer programs that involve the safety of human life and protection of property, as well as programs that pay for themselves.
HHS shutdown plans remain sketchy, but here's a rundown of how the shutdown affects HHS services:
The Veterans Administration is a major source of government supported health care. Here's how the shutdown affects the VA:
Other non-HHS health services affected by the government shutdown include:
Probably not. However, closing of most of the FDA means that there will be less drug-safety oversight. Cutbacks at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mean the popular CMS hotline will have longer wait times, and investigations of Medicare/Medicaid fraud will be suspended.
Dialysis is a life-saving medical procedure. Dialysis centers will not be closed, and patients whose dialysis is supported by Medicare will continue to receive services.
Government health insurance will remain in effect.
Social Security itself is not affected by the government shutdown, as it is funded separately. But some government employees who administer Social Security will be furloughed. This likely means that processing of new Social Security applications will slow down, and there will be longer wait times to speak with Social Security personnel.
SOURCES:Scott Wolfson, director, public information office, Consumer Product Safety Commission.Department of Health and Human Services: "Contingency Staffing Plan for Operations in the Absence of Enacted Annual Appropriations," April 7, 2011.USDS Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Operations Plan for Absence of Appropriations," April 7, 2011.Department of Veterans Affairs: "VA Contingency Plan: Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations," April 8, 2011.U.S. Office of Personnel Management: "The Potential Impact of a Lapse in Appropriations on Federal Employees," April 7, 2011.U.S. Department of Agriculture Contingency Plans.Office of Management and Budget: "Agency Contingency Plans."
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