Editor’s note: The following information was submitted by Tor Eckert and is reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
As the federal government shutdown continues, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is providing this update on how the shutdown may impact people with Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers and families, many of whom rely on federal programs for funding and services. The breadth and scope of these effects will be largely dependent on the length of the shutdown.
The following is an overview of the impact on some key programs.
Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid are not funded by the annual appropriations process, so these programs will not face huge challenges during the shutdown. Moreover, under federal law, states would eventually get paid back for any lapses in Medicaid payments — even if the shutdown lasts for an extended period of time. While providers, such as nursing homes, home health agencies and physicians, serving these programs could anticipate administrative delays, consumers should not be affected.
Affected: Slowdown in processing claims to health providers; delay in payment to health providers; delay in health provider appeals.
Not affected: Health services to beneficiaries, like individuals with Alzheimer’s disease; online enrollment of new Medicare beneficiaries.
National Institutes of Health
The NIH is the world’s biggest source of funding for medical research. During a regular week, the NIH typically would enroll approximately 200 new participants in clinical trials that are testing new treatments, including those for Alzheimer’s disease.
Affected: Halt on enrollment of new participants in clinical trials, including Alzheimer’s disease; freeze on funding, start-up of new clinical trials; acceptance/awards of new research grants on hold; no management assistance for grantees if payment problems arise.
Not affected: Funding continues for existing research grants, including Alzheimer’s disease; existing patients in clinical trials continue to receive care.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it has enough money to process veterans’ claims for pensions, compensation, education and vocational rehabilitation programs through late October, but a prolonged shutdown would suspend those programs once the money runs out.
Affected: Decisions on denials, appeals, motions on veteran disability or pension claims on hold; payment of pending veterans’ disability and pension claims may slow, since overtime to tackle huge backlog of claims may be discontinued.
Not affected: VA medical facilities and clinics remain fully operational; processing of veterans’ claims for pensions, compensation, education and vocational rehabilitation programs continue to be processed; VA medical appointments will be honored; VA prescription drug phone lines are open; VA home loan processing is up and running; veterans’ crisis line is operational.
Social Security Administration
Beneficiaries, including people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, rely on regular Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments.
Affected: Halt on issuing new or replacement SSA cards, Medicare cards or proof of income letters.
Not affected: SS and SSI payments to beneficiaries continue.
Older American Act Programs
Federal funding for OAA programs provide grants to localities for senior and caregiver support services, such as Meals on Wheels, adult day care, respite services and caregiver training. Depending on the length of the shutdown, these programs — many of which are critical to people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families — may have to halt operations as funds dry up. While some programs may have additional revenue streams (i.e., private contributions) that could keep them operating for an unspecified amount of time beyond the government shutdown, these programs are not receiving federal funds as of Oct. 1.
Affected: Hold on OAA grants to local senior care and family support centers and services.
Food and Drug Administration
The FDA is currently unable to support the majority of its activities related to food safety, nutrition and cosmetics. However, the agency is able to review medical products that are supported by user fees paid for by pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers.
Affected: Halt on food safety inspections, compliance and enforcement activities; monitoring of imports discontinued; notification programs, such as food contact substances and infant formula, on hold; freeze on public health education; freeze on public health research.
Not Affected: Review of new prescription drugs continues; review of new medical devices continues.
Visit http://alzfdn.org or call 866-AFA-8484 for information on the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.