Health Policy Education and Outreach Coordinator
On October 1st, the debt ceiling crisis and the federal government shutdown took center stage in a showdown between members of Congress. Unable to agree on the budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Congress initially used the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as ransom. Up to the last hours of the fiscal year, the Democrat-dominated Senate repeatedly rejected proposals from the Republican-dominated House that would in any way defund or change the ACA’s funding. Ultimately no agreement was reached culminating in the current shutdown.
AMSA supports the Affordable Care Act, health care reform that includes comprehensive coverage, and improved access for the uninsured in the United States. We applauded the Supreme Court decision to uphold the law over a year ago and believe that the ACA is officially law. Continuous efforts by the Republican party to derail the ACA are fruitless, and serve only to disrupt the economy and the daily life of Americans. The shutdown has furloughed millions of federal employees, disrupted government operations, and has threatened to damage the recovering economy. Congress’ failure to decide on a budget is harming the very constituency these legislators are employed to serve.
The government shutdown has other serious consequences for the health of the public. The CDC is has been unable to track the annual flu outbreak, or continue monitoring other disease trends. The FDA has reduced its number of food inspectors, leaving some foods, particularly foreign imports of seafood, uninspected and to be sold to an unsuspecting public. The Consumer Product Safety Commission cannot recall faulty or dangerous products on the market and the NIH has been unable to admit patients on research protocols.
Congress is currently at a political impasse. While actively creating legislation to address the debt ceiling and end the shutdown, having both parties agree will be the main challenge for our congressional representatives these next few weeks. On Saturday, the House unanimously passed H.R. 3223, providing backpay for furloughed federal employees. Republican crafted H.R. 3273 was introduced to create a committee with a purpose of ending the shutdown with appointed members by the House and Senate. The Debt Reduction and Economic Growth Working Group has the potential to help, but more immediate solutions will be needed to end the shutdown. AMSA believes Congress’s refusal to end the shutdown remains unacceptable, bears no benefit to the parties involved, and should not involve dismantling the Affordable Care Act.