A US government shutdown could have a significant impact on health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other health agencies.
The CDC would continue to monitor disease outbreaks, though other public health activities could suffer as more than half of the agency’s workers would be furloughed. The NIH would furlough most of its staff and delay new clinical trials for medical treatments. Healthcare services for veterans and Native Americans would continue. Most inspections of hazardous waste sites and drinking water and chemical facilities would stop. Food safety inspections by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could be delayed.
The following are some of the specific ways in which a government shutdown could impact health care:
- Disease outbreaks: The CDC would continue to monitor disease outbreaks, but its ability to respond to outbreaks would be limited. This is because the CDC would have fewer staff available to investigate outbreaks, track the spread of diseases, and provide guidance to public health officials.
- Clinical trials: The NIH would furlough most of its staff, which would delay new clinical trials for medical treatments. This could have a significant impact on the development of new treatments for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and HIV/AIDS.
- Healthcare services for veterans and Native Americans: Healthcare services for veterans and Native Americans would continue, but they may be delayed or disrupted. This is because these services are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service, which would be partially shut down.
- Inspections of hazardous waste sites, drinking water, and chemical facilities: Most inspections of hazardous waste sites and drinking water and chemical facilities would stop. This could pose a risk to public health, as these inspections are designed to ensure that these facilities are operating safely and that the public is not exposed to hazardous materials.
- Food safety inspections: Food safety inspections by the FDA could be delayed. This could pose a risk to public health, as food safety inspections are designed to ensure that food is safe to eat.
The impact of a government shutdown on health care would vary depending on the length of the shutdown and the specific programs and services that are affected. However, even a short shutdown could have a significant impact on the ability of the government to protect public health.
What can people do to protect their health during a government shutdown?
People can take a number of steps to protect their health during a government shutdown:
- Stay informed about disease outbreaks: Monitor the CDC’s website for information about disease outbreaks in your area.
- Get vaccinated: Make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccinations.
- Wash your hands frequently: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to prevent the spread of germs.
- Cook food thoroughly: Cook food to a safe internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
- Be aware of the risks of foodborne illness: Avoid eating food that is not cooked thoroughly or that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Store food properly: Store food in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent bacteria from growing.