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FDA forced to halt inspections during government shutdown

The partial government shutdown has ground some healthcare activities to a halt, but other key agencies remain funded. The CMS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are funded through September. However, some agencies within HHS were not funded and therefore are shut down. More than 76% of employees are retained and about 24% are furloughed.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is funded alongside the Department of Agriculture, not HHS, has paused routine food and drug safety inspections, as well as many ongoing research activities. Speaking via teleconference, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told attendees at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that the agency only has about a month of funding left for the drug approval process. Currently 50% of FDA staff are furloughed. “The longer (the furloughs) continue the greater chance of significant risk to public health,” said Dr. Michael Carome of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

The shutdown has cut off funding for the Justice Department, too. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Friday halted appeal of litigation surrounding the Affordable Care Act. DOJ asked for the delay since lawyers are prohibited from working during the shutdown and would miss crucial deadlines imposed by the court.

However, cases involving rules on short-term and association health plans and Medicaid work requirements are proceeding. —Harris Meyer contributed to this report