Effects of the government shutdown on the Healthcare Industry
Written by Alice Mason
It was for the first time that the federal government had to face partial shutdown in the last seventeen years. The U.S. Treasury is draining its capability of borrowing money soon under debt limit. Though the stakes are quite high, the lawmakers are still not able to make the fiscal debates successful. At the origin of the fiscal debate is the scope and the size of the federal government. It consumes not less than one-fifth 22% of the GDP or gross domestic product. In the meantime, the national debt which is nearly $17 trillion is now going beyond the economic product.
There are entitlement programs which seem to be the main driver of debt and federal spending. The only sector which is growing rapidly is healthcare and the not-so “Affordable Care Act” that will raise federal health care expenditures by 15% extra in 10 years. Without the reform, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid with Obamacare will be on the path to absorb almost more than half of the U.S. budget by the present decade’s end.
The present debate on budget has mainly two parts. One is the fund for Obamacare and the other is the circumstances during which debt ceiling may take place. There has been a difference in opinion over the funding level for the government agencies during this summer. The lawmakers have submitted resignation because the allotment method will be stalled. Rather than passing the 12 spending bills as the allowance method had called for, the lawmakers paid attention to pass a continued resolution by 30th September, 2013.
The Obamacare or Affordable Care Act is at the root of the difference in budget that led to the lapse of allotment-funding. The Act has become unwanted due to its negative effects like high premium amount, full-time working hours, high tax and loss of employer-provided coverage for your health. This is what you call the Affordable Care Act’s challenge. A law has been enacted by means of reconciliation which is a budget-process system and is designed to accord the differences in the budget proposals of the Congress.
It was President Obama and his associates who required some support of the Republicans to obtain fund for the law. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives have enacted the bills frequently which provided fund to the government, other than Obamacare and the Democrat-controlled Senate refused them. The government officials are draining exceptional steps that led the Treasury Department to pursue meeting the payments at the right time, in spite the fact that the debt ceiling was hit on 19th May, 2013.
The Americans have observed that Washington is facing double catastrophe of enormous debt and spending. According to the report of Bloomberg news service, almost two-thirds of the Americans believe that the Congress needs to reduce the expenses cut before growing the debt limit.
President Obama has denied to negotiate with the Congress for finding entitlement reforms and spending cuts that may be complied with before the debt limit is raised. While the United States is suffering from fiscal crisis, the lawmakers will have to employ a plan for solving the problem.
About the Author
Alice Mason is a Healthcare Global contributor
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.