Part 1 Discussion of the Government Shutdown, the Affordable Care Act, & You

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Unless you have been living in your survivalist bunker over the past week, you cannot escape media coverage regarding the government shutdown, the new healthcare marketplace for the Affordable Care Act (widely known as Obamacare), and how these current events are affecting you and those in your communities.  The stark feelings of how Americans view the 113th U.S. Congress who is responsible for the shutdown, as well as how welcomed or villianized the implementation of ACA are not covert.  Everyone has an opinion (or several) about how program cuts, furloughs, etc., will affect the average American family, but what about the 50+ million Americans with disabilities?
This week’s articles will paint a clear picture of the discussions we are all having around the country about the state of the nation.  Today’s post will discuss the government shutdown, and how federal programs that provide healthcare and nutrition services are being threatened.

The Government Shutdown Enters Week 2
We are entering week 2 of the government shutdown.  There are a plethora of concerns about key federal programs and services being destitute between now and the end of the month if a compromise is not reached between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.  Reuters reported last week on how our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., would not be able to pay for its Medicaid services if an agreement is not reached soon.  Washington, D.C. will not be able to pay healthcare facilities and providers, such as hospitals and agencies, that provide community long-term care (CLTC) services to our most vulnerable under its Medicaid health plan.
The reason for Washington D.C.’s inability to foot the bill is due to the fact that Washington D.C. is a local government without a state; meaning that Congress has complete control over the financial workings of the city.  The 2.7 billion dollars that Congress has budgeted to Washington D.C. to use for Medicaid is in limbo, and this translates to the well-being and livelihood of clients, caregivers, and healthcare providers hanging in the balance.  This financial halt in being able to care for the city’s residents adds fuel to the fire for the demand that Washington D.C. be recognized as a state and have voting representation on the federal level.
Medicaid is not the only federal program that is greatly affected by the current shutdown.  WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a federal grant program that provide supplemental nutritious foods; nutrition education and counseling; and screenings and referrals to health, welfare, and social services to low-income, at-risk families.  Since WIC is not an entitlement program; Congress does not set aside a specific amount of funds that would allow every person who is eligible to participate in the program.  Instead, Congress approves only a specific amount of funds to support the program each year.  WIC’s targeted population are pregnant women; breastfeeding and nonbreastfeeding women (with assistance duration that correlates with the age of their child), and children aged 0 (infants) to five years old.
States throughout the country are scrambling to find appropriate means to keep WIC alive in the midst of the shutdown.  Here in South Carolina, there were great concerns of how WIC would survive during the shutdown.  SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a statement last week that the program would remain funded until October 31st, if the shutdown failed to cease by that time.  DHEC officials were notified by those within the federal government that the program was considered nonessential, and would indeed be negatively impacted.  There were statements issued earlier last week that the program would only be sustained until October 15th.  Those at DHEC made the decision to use some of the savings the agency had to continue serving the 122,000 South Carolinians who depend on the existence of this program to thrive and prosper.
It is frustrating and disturbing to witness how one decision to bring the government to a screeching halt is devastating the lives of our most vulnerable in America – those of low-income, infants and children, expectant and new mothers, and those with disabilities.
Part 2 will continue the discussion of the current state in America by highlighting how the ACA is impacting the lives of women, low-income, and disabled Americans, as well as how you can ramp your voice in advocating for change on Capitol Hill.  
(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Pixabay.)

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