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Government Shutdown and its Impact on Cancer Patients

The US Federal Government entered a partial shutdown on October 1 suspending services deemed 'unessential.'   The shutdown was a result of the government's failure to enact regular appropriations or a continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year. This is the first U.S. federal government shutdown since the shutdown of 1995 and 1996. Read about how the current government shutdown will affect cancer patients.


The Federal government is currently shutdown and will remain closed until Congress passes legislation that will fund the government. Despite the lack of any funding, many agencies and offices will remain functioning as they are considered essential. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will not enroll new patients into clinical trials during the shutdown, but will continue to provide care to those patients already admitted to the Clinical Center. Additionally, many NIH grant recipients will experience delays in receiving their funding, which can slow their research and clinical trials. The NIH patient information and help telephone lines will not be active during the shutdown.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and unemployment insurance are considered mandatory spending and fortunately, will continue to be funded during the shutdown. Those already enrolled in these programs should not experience any delay in medical care, should receive all benefits, and your doctors should get paid. However, new applicants to these programs may not have their applications processed until the government reopens or experience a delay due to reductions in workforce and staff at the agency.

The Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange program launched on October 1st and the current government shutdown will not affect its funding or implementation. For more information about enrolling in an insurance plan offered on the exchange, please see www.healthcare.gov.

The Washington Post has a quick summary of the breakdown agency by agency that might be helpful to patients: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/whats-open-whats-closed/

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