Federal Government Shutdown Affects Congressional Healthcare Activity and Federal Agencies

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On January 25, 2019, the longest federal government shutdown was ended with the passage and signing of a three-week continuing resolution fully funding the federal government through February 15, 2019.  The partial shutdown began on December 22, 2018 and lasted 35 days.

Prior to the partial shutdown, Congress had already passed five of its major appropriations bills funding about three-fourths of the federal government, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a result, virtually all government health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare were insulated from the effects of the shutdown, but other health care-related areas were impacted by the shutdown.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saw approximately 40 percent of its operations stopped, and thousands of government workers were furloughed—granted a leave of absence. During the shutdown, the FDA was unable to support certain routine regulatory and compliance activities, including some that are medical product–related and most food-related activities. The agency was able to respond to emergencies, manage high-risk recalls, pursue criminal enforcement work and civil investigations related to imminent threats to human health or life, review important entries to determine potential risks to health, and respond to other critical public health issues, as appropriate.

Also impacted was the Federal Office of Budget and Management (OMB), which has several staff members furloughed, thus delaying meetings with interested stakeholders. Prior to the shutdown, ISASS had been working to set up meetings with OMB to discuss Medicare reimbursement policies for minimally invasive spinal procedures.  These meetings will be scheduled as soon as possible with OMB officials back to work as of January 28, 2019.

The potential for another shutdown still exists if Congress and the White House cannot agree on terms by February 15, 2019.