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Internists Say Federal Government Shutdown Will Negatively Impact Critical Health Care Programs

Statement attributable to:
Jack Ende, MD, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (January 20, 2018)— The American College of Physicians (ACP) urges Congress to act immediately to find consensus on legislation that will re-open the federal government, restore essential funding to critical health care programs, and reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the National Health Service Corps, and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education programs. Immediate action is needed so that patients have ongoing access to essential health care and affordable and comprehensive coverage options and services.

CHIP, together with Medicaid, has helped to reduce the number of uninsured children by a remarkable 68 percent. CHIP has a proven track record of providing high quality, cost-effective coverage for low-income children and pregnant women in working families. CHIP must be reauthorized for a minimum of 5 years and preferably longer.

In addition to funding important health care programs, ACP calls on Congress to find a permanent solution for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who now find their legal status under the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program in jeopardy, including a path to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries. These Dreamers include medical students and resident physicians, who without congressional action, do not have assurance they will be allowed to continue to work and study in the United States without fear of deportation.

As these students and residents become physicians, they will have the experience and background necessary to treat an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse patient population to fulfill the cultural, informational, and linguistic needs of their patients. Denying the United States the talents of thousands of Dreamers will bring great harm to the country, as well as to those directly affected.

As we’ve seen in previous government shutdowns, failure to find a solution to continue funding will adversely affect federal health programs that patients depend on. This can include suspending public health initiatives, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual flu program, as well as routine food and drug inspections completed by the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health could be forced to stop accepting new patients into clinical trials. It is also essential that funding for Title VII primary care grants to support primary care clinician training as well as curriculum and faculty development also be immediately restored.

Beyond just re-opening the government, Congress has several other issues that need to be decisively addressed. ACP urges Congress to include in their budget legislation reauthorization of funding for programs that are essential to the health of the U.S. population including the National Health Service Corps, Community Health Centers, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program which have all been allowed to lapse. ACP calls on Congress to act now to prevent further damage to American health care caused by the government shutdown and by lapsed funding for vital federal health programs; and most importantly, ensure that patients are protected. 

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About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: Jackie Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org