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HHS Prepares For A Government Shutdown

By Dr. Meg Bouvier

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I remember not-so-fondly the government shutdown in 1995. I had just started my post-doc at NINDS — after four years in grad school I was flat broke, and horrified to learn I would be without a paycheck for a while. Today, with the midnight deadline looming and no FY11 budget on the horizon, government agencies prepare for another shutdown of the federal government. What does that mean for the Department of Health and Human Services? The only programs that will remain in operation are those that are necessary for the safety of life and the protection of property, or those funded through other sources.

The NIH operates a world-class Clinical Center where every patient is enrolled in a research protocol. While the 1443 studies currently running will remain in effect, no new patients will be enrolled. Of those studies, 60 are clinical trials for children with cancer. Reduced hospital staff will focus only on caring for patients already in the Clinical Center. No new studies will begin during a shutdown. NIH has eight studies ready to commence next week—four of them involve children, and two of those involve children with cancer. None of them will be initiated during a shutdown. For further information, read on:


Contingency Plan One Page Summary

I. Services and programs that will remain operational.

Please list major services that will continue at the agency and identify the reason each is able to continue – either “other funding source” or “necessary for the safety of life and the protection of property”.

Health care reform implementation (CCIIO) Affordable Care Act funding
IHS direct clinical services Safety of life
TANF, foster care grants, child support enforcement grants Mandatory funding
Suicide prevention hotline Safety of life
NIH direct clinical services & research protocols for current patients Safety of life
FDA import monitoring Safety of life
Medicare provider payments Mandatory funding[i]
Medicaid payments to states, CHIP Mandatory funding


II. Services and programs that will be closed.

  • New grants and ongoing technical assistance to Head Start centers will cease
  • NIH Clinical Center will not take on additional patients nor begin new clinical trials.
  • Technical support to local behavioral health services will cease
  • No new service grants (e.g. Ryan White HIV/AIDS grantees)
  • FDA review of new pharmaceuticals and medical devices

III. Key citizen services that will be impacted.

  • Food & drug safety reporting – monitoring of negative drug interactions and some food safety inspections suspended
  • Medicare services – services for beneficiaries, such as 1-800 Medicare, the Medicare and You handbook, and website updates could be limited, with longer hold and wait times.
  • Medical research – NIH Clinical Center clinical trial recruitment shut down

IV. Employees.

  • Total Agency Employees: 76,348
  • Total Employees Furloughed: 47,693



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