Shutdown update: The impact on hospitals and patients

The federal government has been shut down for 10 days and counting, and more details are emerging about how the Congressional standoff is affecting patients, providers and hospitals.

For example, the National Institutes of Health wasn't admitting any new patients and last week had to turn away 30 children who came looking for treatment for cancer and infectious diseases.

But with no end in sight to the shutdown, NIH was allowed to make 12 exceptions to the no-new-patient policy because the patients' illnesses were imminently life-threatening and an NIH study offered hope for improvement, the Associated Press reported. One of those patients will undergo an experimental treatment for a particularly aggressive form of leukemia under study at the NIH.

Moreover, the shutdown has limited state investigations of healthcare facilities on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to cases that pose "immediate jeopardy" to patients or where a hospital could lose funding, The Dallas Moring News reported. However, investigators will no longer conduct inspections of nursing homes and hospitals as well as initial surveys that determine whether a proposed healthcare facility can receive Medicare funding.

The state of Texas already has had to delay five hospital inspections due to the suspension of roughly $1 million of monthly appropriation to pay for such reviews, the article noted.

And while the government shutdown has stalled many healthcare programs, providers still can attest to Meaningful Use and earn their incentive payments, FierceEMR previously reported.

An end to the shutdown won't put healthcare reform in the clear. If and when Congress reopens the government and ends the debt ceiling debate, efforts to defund healthcare reform will remain, CQ Roll Call's Emily Ethridge told Kaiser Health News. "Even once we get past these issues right now, I think Republicans are sworn to try to take this law down," she said.

For more:
- here's the AP article
- read the Dallas Morning News article
- read the KHN article