AAFP Statement: Government Shutdown Halts Vital Health Services, Endangers Elderly and Disabled Americans’ Health Security

Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013


Statement attributable to:
Reid Blackwelder, MD
President, American Academy of Family Physicians

“At a time when the nation’s health care system is undergoing dramatic change, the American Academy of Family Physicians is dismayed that Congress has shut down the federal government over disagreement about the Affordable Care Act  — particularly since implementation of the law will continue regardless.

“Closing the federal government will, however, endanger Americans’ health. More than 11,000 people turn 65 each day and some 3,000 people apply for disability coverage each day. Without staff to process their applications for Medicare, these people face a potential gap in insurance coverage and the threat of health insecurity.

“Moreover, the government shutdown prevents federal agencies such as the Food & Drug Administration from food inspections, import monitoring and public notification of food safety problems. It blocks the Centers for Disease Control’s programs to operate its annual influenza program at the onset of the flu season, to monitor disease outbreaks, and to support state and local health departments’ infectious disease surveillance.

“These and other gaps in federal services put the public’s health at risk. The shutdown erodes Americans’ access to future medical care by slowing the regulatory process that sets Medicare physician payment for next year. Not only will this further undermine physicians’ confidence in the Medicare program, but it will add to the destabilizing impact of the 24 percent cut in physician payment scheduled for Jan. 1, 2014.

“Ironically, this shutdown has little effect on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and the efforts to defund or delay the successful implementation of the law only destabilize our nation’s health care system.

“Americans’ access to safe food, public health department services and Medicare coverage should not be jeopardized by ongoing efforts to defund or delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act. While funds for important health-related services dry up, implementation of the ACA continues with the mandatory funding embedded in the law.

“Congress must stop jeopardizing the health of their constituents. They must pass a continuing resolution that restores funding for the services that are vital to Americans’ health and to elderly and disabled patients’ smooth transition from private insurance to Medicare.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Blackwelder, contact Leslie Champlin,
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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