Important facts to understand about the 2018 government shutdown
Kathryn E. Vinson, MS, CCRC
Before we get started here, we really want to get a message across. We are not talking about the partial shutdown of the US government in order to spur a political debate in the comments section – the last thing we want is discord on our beloved page. We know that there are strong opinions on all sides of this issue, so let’s keep it civil.
As cancer patients and caregivers, we rely heavily on cancer research that is funded by government entities across the globe, as well as international groups such as the World Health Organization. Many of us also depend on Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA for our lifesaving treatments. Given this, it stands to reason that we may wonder what is happening to cancer research (as well as research in a ton of other disease conditions) and cancer treatments with the partial shutdown.
You notice that I keep saying “partial shutdown” – I say this because funding bills have been passed for about 75% of 2019 government spending already, as well as exemptions put in place for parts of the government that are considered “essential.”
What is essential?
Well, the answer to what is essential may depend on several factors. Just a few examples include: the mail has to continue to run, our military must be funded to protect the homeland and the men and women currently deployed, the TSA continues to perform screenings at transportation hubs for our safety, and the FAA must continue to run so our pilots can utilize air traffic networks.
USA Today tells us that the following nine cabinet level departments are affected by the shutdown: Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, and Treasury. I know those departments handle a TON of important functions, but remember – we said impacted, not completely shut down. Each one of these departments has functions that are considered essential. Let’s be honest – do we really think they will shut down the IRS?
So, what is funded?
Before the impasse earlier this month, the following departments of the US government had already received funding for fiscal year 2019, and will continue to run: Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.
But what about cancer research?
Now that we’ve talked about the current shutdown in the broadest of terms, let’s get back to our conversation about how this shutdown will affect cancer research and treatments.
For the most part – it should not have a profound affect on cancer research, nor on people receiving their treatments via government sponsored programs such as the VA, Medicare, or Medicaid. As you saw above, the VA is funded, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services which oversee the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
As far as federally funded research goes, understand that the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health fall under the purvey of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As this department has been funded for 2019, effects to these agencies are expected to be minimal. The Food & Drug Administration also falls under HHS, but will experience some furloughs during the shutdown. These furloughs are expected to affect workers involved in policy and regulation development, as well as some administrative workers. These temporary layoffs are expected to affect 41% of the FDA workforce. It should be noted that critical functions of the FDA, such as oversight of clinical trials, are not expected to be impacted.
For those impacted
I know that I speak for the entire Cancer Horizons family when I say, our hearts go out to every worker and their families affected by the shutdown. We understand that a shutdown doesn’t just hit an office, it also trickles down to support services, contract services, and many others. The effects can be far reaching with delayed paychecks and benefits. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
As always, much love, many prayers, and abundant blessings to all of the warriors out there!