AAFP: Govt shutdown poses public health risk

Midlevel provider's roles set to expand with health care reform
Midlevel provider's roles set to expand with health care reform

HealthDay News -- The American Association of Family Physicians is urging Congress to end the federal shutdown to avoid public health risks.

Although Medicare and Medicaid programs are not immediately being affected by the shutdown, physicians may begin to experience delays in payment as a result of the federal workforce furlough, the AAFP noted in a statement.

In addition, there is insufficient staff available for processing disability coverage applications, which may result in gaps in insurance coverage and health insecurity. Physicians who interact with the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality may experience challenges, as 92% of staff is currently furloughed.

However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that brings Medicaid rates for primary care services up to at least Medicare levels remains in place, and those payments will continue. Primary care Medicare incentive payments will also be paid, and meaningful use payments for health information technology adoption will continue.

Funding for the ACA expansion of Medicaid eligibility is also secure, as are most provisions of the ACA, including the health insurance marketplaces.

"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," AAFP president Reid Blackwelder, MD, said in a statement. "While funds for important health-related services dry up, implementation of the ACA continues with the mandatory funding embedded in the law."

The government shutdown also prevents agencies, including the FDA, from conducting food inspections, monitoring imports and notifying the public regarding food safety problems. It also blocks the CDC from operating its annual influenza monitoring program, FluView, and from supporting state and local health departments' infectious disease surveillance programs.

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