The Government Shutdown & Your Health

US flag and a stethoscopeDespite the federal government shutdown, U.S. officials said Medicare and Medicaid recipients and veterans will continue to receive health-care benefits.

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The shutdown also won’t stop Tuesday’s introduction of the health insurance exchanges that are a foundation of the Affordable Care Act. The health-reform law, also known as Obamacare, is ground zero in the budget stalemate on Capitol Hill between Republicans and Democrats that led to the shutdown.

However, a number of programs important to public health will probably be disrupted. They include infectious disease surveillance, inspections of food and drug manufacturers, and monitoring of imported foods and drugs, government officials said Monday afternoon.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expected to furlough 52 percent of its staff in the shutdown, sending home approximately 40,500 employees, according to a contingency plan released by the agency. An estimated 38,000 staffers will remain on the job for the short term.