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From Health Law Daily, October 2, 2013

Federal agencies stop or reduce many health care activities

By Paul Clark

On the second day of the partial shutdown of federal government activities, many federal government websites included a message similar to this one – “Due to the lapse in government funding, only web sites supporting excepted functions will be updated unless otherwise funded. As a result, the information on this website may not be up to date, the transactions submitted via the website may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.”

The impact on the health care market depends on how agencies determined what was essential work and how agency activities are funded. For example, Medicare, Medicaid and the roll-out of the health care insurance marketplaces are relatively unaffected by the partial shutdown in the short term because those activities are fully funded under current law and are not dependent on Congress passing appropriations bills or a continuing resolution.

FDA user fees. The FDA said that agency operations would be limited to emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property; criminal law enforcement work; and activities funded by carryover user fee balances. Carryover user fee balances will only be spent on activities for which the fees are authorized under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Until either a fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriation bill or a continuing resolution is approved by Congress, the FDA said that it does not have legal authority to accept user fees assessed for FY 2014 or accept any new regulatory submissions that require a fee payment.

Clinical research. At the National Institutes for Health, research into life-threatening diseases and other areas has stopped, and new patients are not being accepted into clinical trials. According to several published reports, the NIH accepts about 200 new patients into new clinical trials each week. Six new trials were to start this week, but all new trials are on hold until the funding impasse in Congress is resolved.

A statement from the Association of American Medical Colleges noted that because of the congressional stalemate, “payments for physician training at children’s hospitals also will stop, placing further strain on the nation’s capacity to train the workforce needed as the nation heads toward a critical shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by 2020.”

Court system. The federal judiciary will operate in the usual way for at least 10 business days after October 1. Around October 15, the judiciary will assess the situation and provide further guidance. The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will conduct its normal operations until October 4, when it will reassess. The fall term of the Court is scheduled to start Monday October 7.

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