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What could happen to America's health if the government shuts down?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
How will a government shutdown impact individual health in America?

As talk explodes about a looming possible government shutdown, the question many people are asking is what will happen to affordable healthcare and the insurance exchange. What could happen to our health programs for elders, families and children?

The Senate has refused to fund the government unless Democrats either delay or eliminate parts of the Affordable Health Care Act that has been dubbed Obamacare.

The good news is that the disagreement won't stop the insurance exchanges from opening, despite pressure from Republicans not to pass The bad news is there will be many health programs that will no longer be funded and others with limited capacity to help protect our health.

"Republicans in Congress had the opportunity to pass a routine, simple continuing resolution that keeps the government running for a few more weeks," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "But instead, Republicans decided they would rather make an ideological point by demanding the sabotage of the healthcare law."

Making a point could also put our health at risk.

Will the insurance exchanges open?

The answer is yes.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has made it clear that the Health Insurance Marketplace will open.

The Affordable Health Care Act has nothing to do with funding the government. Republicans are using dismantling or delaying parts of the bill for bargaining purposes.

Specifically, opponents disagree with medical device taxes. They also say The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cause harm to employers who will face penalties or not insuring employees.

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On Friday President Obama said: “On Tuesday, about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality, affordable health care, just like anybody else,” Obama said on Friday. The new health insurance exchanges, he said, “will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what — even if there’s a government shutdown. That’s a done deal.”

What will happen to America's health programs?

The Department of Health and Human Services has a "contingency" plan to continue their operations, but with limitations.

Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will have limited staffing and a reduced capacity to respond to a national disaster.

Some programs will not be funded including temporary assistance for needy families,

One aspect of concern is if the government does shut down the CDC will be functioning at limited capacity, meaning they won't be able to respond to disease outbreaks quickly and lab testing will be delayed.

The Center's for Disease Control will not be able to track influenza or continue their seasonal influenza program and that's important.

In January, 2013, the CDC was able to alert Americans that flu had reached epidemic proportions.

There also will be no funding for the Senior and Native American Nutrition Programs and Prevention of Elder Abuse programs.

The NIH will not be able to admit new patients, many of whom rely on potentially life-saving treatments.

The economic and physical health of Americans will be threatened if there is a government shutdown. The economic toll can sadly also impact America's overall wellness at a crucial time when the prospect of affordable health care would normally bring a sigh of relief to millions who are uninsured.