WASHINGTON—Uncertainty hung over the federal government as the March 1st deadline to resolve sequestration came and went with no congressional solution in place to avert massive cuts in federal spending.
DoD leaders were making preparations for furloughs that could impact about 750,000 DoD civilian employees in total beginning in late April. Should these furloughs go into effect, DoD civilian medical providers would also be impacted DoD leaders have said.
“About 40% of our medical providers are civilians,” Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said at a recent news conference. “This furlough, if impacted, will affect them greatly, but the department’s intent and our goal is to mitigate that impact and provide quality care and access of care and we are thoughtfully working through that process now.”
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson, MD, wrote in blog posting on March 5th that while they can’t predict the exact consequences of sequestration on every part of the military health system, “we will see an immediate decrease in our research efforts, delayed repairs to facilities and delays in new equipment purchases.”
He further wrote that should the civilian workforce be furloughed, “we do expect to see some impact on the delivery of health care services within our Military Treatment Facilities.”
“Local hospital and clinic commanders will need to manage service availability while ensuring that the quality of care and safety of patients remain intact. This may mean a decrease in clinic appointment availability or longer wait times to see providers,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the House passed a continuing resolution bill this week that would continue to fund DoD and VA programs for another year. The bill could also give DoD some flexibility in dealing with mandatory cuts brought on by sequestration if the bill is agreed upon by the Senate.