Well, not only does the stifling of federal funding affect health organisations in the short-term, the impact on research, student tuition, and even wildlife control may also have knock-on effects for Lyme disease.
With controversies over the existence of Chronic Lyme disease, the two-tier testing protocols, Lyme disease vaccine development, long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease, and even the very presence of Lyme disease-carrying ticks in some areas of the US, the incumbent government’s approach to health care is a real matter of life and death for Americans.
Government Shutdown Impact on Health
While the government shutdown continues, so-called non-essential services are also being halted completely or run on a skeleton staff, including: the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facilities in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, and even border services training.
More Incipient Shutdown Effects
Other effects of the stand-off may be less apparent but will likely have longlasting negative consequences. For example, small business owners may find that they can no longer get access to loans for their start-up, students in several states have had funding pulled (including 100 veterans at Missouri State University), the director of a project to study stink bugs was furloughed, just as the pests are beginning to find winter hiding places inside homes, and on the Eastern shore of Virginia the annual wild pony round-up has been cancelled.
CDC Warns of Blind Spots as Shutdown Continues
Students and researchers with the potential to help eradicate Lyme disease, those working on commercial ventures for products for sufferers of Lyme disease, and those helping to manage wildlife in an effort to reduce the spread of ticks in the US are all being affected by the impasse prompted by the Republican party. What’s more, Barbara Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that “The blind spots are getting bigger every day as this goes on.”
Federal Employees Cannot Afford Health Care
The current stituation has also resulted in hundreds of thousands of government employees going without pay. Many of these employees have chronic health conditions for which they must pay for medications, along with paying their mortgage, buying school supplies for their kids, and putting food on the table for the whole family.
Who Will Study, and Who Will Treat Lyme Disease?
Oregon State University is losing $600,000 a day in federal research money, while Cullman’s Good Samaritan Clinic, a free health care clinic in Alabama, can’t take on new patients, and there are stories of patients being denied blood tests because of the government shutdown. The irony, of course, is that even when the situation is resolved, the Republican party does not want to pass a bill that would help all Americans enjoy improved accessibility to essential health care.
The Affordable Care Act and Lyme DiseaseThe Affordable Care Act is set to come into effect on January 1st, 2014, and would mean that patients with an existing condition, such as Lyme disease, will not be denied coverage by insurers. The insurers would still be expected to fall back on the CDC guidelines stating that 28 days of antibiotic therapy is sufficient to treat most cases of Lyme disease. Of course, without federal funding of Lyme disease research, including monitoring of new cases, any evolution of these guidelines looks unlikely. The CDC cannot pour resources it does not have into updating their thinking on Lyme disease policy.
Lyme Disease – Pre-Existing Conditions and Obamacare
Not only, then, is the current government shutdown affecting Lyme disease sufferers in both the short and long-term, but so will the collapse of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Under the Affordable Care Act, set to take effect Jan. 1, Lyme disease patients won’t be denied insurance coverage because they have a pre-existing condition, but insurers can still rely on CDC guidelines regarding payment for antibiotic treatment beyond 28 days.
Many Remain Bewildered by Affordable Care Act
While many people do not have the financial capabilities to pay for private Lyme disease testing and long-term treatment with cyst-busting drugs, antibiotics, and intravenous medications, a huge proportion of Americans also do not have basic healthcare coverage and so are at risk of going undiagnosed with Lyme disease and co-infections. The longer Lyme disease goes untreated the more likely are serious complications, with the infection possibly even proving fatal in some cases, especially where pre-existing health issues like heart disease are present.
Government Shutdown and Health Advocacy Impact
There are various health advocacy groups, such as the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance, campaigning for better recognition of the impact of Lyme disease, as well as the need for increased research funding. This organisation recently launched a national campaign from San Francisco, with John Donnally, who was diagnosed twice with Lyme disease, cycling across the US to try to raise some $50,000 to help increase awareness of the illness. One imagines that it is proving difficult to get media attention for a health-related issue while all the hubbub continues around Obamacare.
Millions of Uninsured in California – Many are Eligible for Coverage
San Francisco residents are to be the focus of a national health policy non-profit’s research project into the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the uninsured. The Kaiser Family Foundation will be looking at 2,000 randomly selected Californians who lacked health insurance for at least two months, and will follow the impact of Obamacare on their lives for the next two years. Researchers have found that around 40% of those who were uninsured believed that the Act will improve their ability to acccess affordable health insurance, although around 70% of respondents said that they didn’t really understand how the law will affect them and their families.
1 Million Children Without Health Coverage in California
California had around 7 million people who were without insurance at some point last year, 1 million of those were children, and the state accounts for some 15% of all of the US’s uninsured. Around 5.5 million of those uninsured are anticipated to be engaged in the health insurance exchange based on income and immigration status, Covered California, which is being seen as a marker for national enrollment. The coverage comes in on January 1st but people who are uninsured or self-insured were able to start signing up over a week ago.
Reaching the People
The government shutdown, however, has affected the work being done by federally-funded institutions to raise awareness of eligibility for affordable health insurance. Some 75% of uninsured Californians were found in Kaiser’s initial study to either not understand that they were eligible for coverage or to actively believe that they were ineligible. Nearly half of those on low enough incomes to qualify for Medicaid were unaware or believed themselves ineligible.
As the stand-off enters its 9th day, the negative effects increase in regards to immediate care for Lyme disease patients, the future of Lyme disease research, and the potential for revised treatment and diagnosis guidelines for Lyme disease.