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Another government shutdown would impact public health, healthcare industry

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A federal government shutdown is looming, and if members of Congress cannot agree to a short-term spending bill to send to President Trump by midnight Friday, many federal agencies will be forced to close up shop until a compromise is reached.

A shutdown would impact public health and consequently the healthcare industry, as was the case five years ago, when the federal government shut down for 16 days.

In an article published Wednesday by Stat News, authors Erin Mershon and Ike Swetlitz revisited that 2013 shutdown and spoke with former high-ranking staffers of the FDA, CDC, and National Institutes of Health about the strain it put on those respective agencies.

“It’s unsafe, it’s terrible for government, it endangers Americans, and it doesn’t save any money," Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, who as the CDC director was in charge of CDC during the 2013 shutdown, told Stat News. "So it’s a really bad thing to have happen.”

For example, most of the FDA's lab research aimed at informing public health decisions were ceased during that shutdown, the article said. The CDC "largely stopped tracking disease outbreaks" and were forced to scale back its annual seasonal influenza program, which is noteworthy this year as America is being hit by a nasty flu season.

Another shutdown would again put citizens at risk, including healthcare workers who must continue to treat patients and battle potential outbreaks no matter what.