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Advocacy News

Federal Government Shutdown would Have Little Impact on Dentistry

September 28, 2015

Congress must pass a spending bill by Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown, but lawmakers seem intent on drawing out the political battle over federal funding for Planned Parenthood; and they seem willing to take the fight right up to the very last second. At this point, it looks like they'll pass a "continuing resolution" to fund the government at least through mid-December.

Nevertheless, Federal agencies are preparing for a shutdown just in case Congress is unable to pass a temporary spending measure between now and the deadline.

Medicare, veterans and other health care claims might be delayed as processing is suspended during the shutdown. Medicaid and CHIP payments will continue on time. Those claims are paid by the states, which receive the money from the federal government ahead of time, on a quarterly basis. Dentists working in Indian Health Service clinics will be expected to report to work, although many other employees may be furloughed, as they were during the last government shutdown two years ago.

Planning for a shutdown, and then ramping up operations afterwards, actually costs the government more than normal operations, according to White House estimates made following the 16-day shutdown in 2013.

The Department of Health and Human Services put more than half of its employees on unpaid furlough last time, and shuttered grant-making, research-oriented and “employee intensive” agencies like the Administration for Children and Families and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Agencies that focus on direct service to patients for the most part remained in operation.

Below is a list of major HHS agencies and what activities they would and would not perform should another shutdown occur this year:
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—Health care fraud and abuse investigations would be suspended. The agency would stop routine provider monitoring during the shutdown period.
  • Indian Health Service—IHS would continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics. While activities necessary to meet the immediate needs of patients, medical staff, and medical facilities would continue, other activities, like policy development and program oversight, would be suspended.
  • Health Services and Resources Administration—HRSA would continue activities funded through sources other than annual appropriations, including Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps. The agency would suspend oversight activities and grant payments.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—After furloughing its staff, CDC would have only a limited ability to monitor disease outbreaks and to perform research and oversight. Programs operated with mandatory funding, such as the Vaccines for Children Program, would continue.
  • The National Institutes of Health—NIH, which includes the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, would continue to provide care for patients already in its clinical center, but would not admit new patients. Agency staff would continue performing necessary care of laboratory animals, but all research and grant oversight and administration would be suspended.
  • The Food and Drug Administration—The agency would continue its limited activities funded by fees, such as providing export certificates for human and animal drugs and activities in the Center for Tobacco Products. The FDA would likely continue critical activities like handling high-risk recalls, civil and criminal investigations, and import entry review. During the last shutdown, the agency suspended routine food inspection and other food, cosmetic and nutrition activities. It suspended most laboratory research.