Top Harvard doctors: Supporting Obamacare 'makes moral and medical sense'

Leading physicians at Harvard University appealed Friday for US health care professionals to speak out against the government shutdown by contacting their elected leaders.

The shutdown began October 1 and has sent some 800,000 federal workers home without pay. It was driven by a resurgence of Republican opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform plan that lawmakers passed in 2010.

"We must lead by example," said the piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, written by the magazine's editor-in-chief Jeffrey Drazen and executive editor Gregory Curfman.

The journal itself does not take a position on the reform package, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, and aimed at offering cheaper health insurance to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

However, as doctors practicing in a northeastern state that has had a similar program in place for years, "we strongly support it," they said.

"Before reform in Massachusetts, we saw too many patients who were devastated by a freak accident or an unexpected diagnosis of cancer; we saved bodies and bankrupted lives.

"Now, when fate strikes a cruel blow to citizens of Massachusetts, we can fix their bodies and preserve their lives," the authors added.

"To us, supporting the ACA makes moral and medical sense."

Approving drugs and devices, conducting surveillance for emerging infectious diseases and researching biology and treatment are among the "important services" provided by the government health sector, Drazen and Curfman said.

"Make your views known to your representatives in Congress," they wrote. "Your voice will become part of the wave that eventually spurs the House of Representatives to act."

The New England Journal of Medicine says it has the "largest paid circulation among medical journals," with 200,000 paying subscribers and a weekly worldwide readership of more than 600,000.

The shutdown has sent home 40,000 employees of the Department of Health and Human Services, or about half the staff of the government's umbrella agency that includes the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The shutdown has stopped preparations for the upcoming flu season by the CDC, treatment of new patients in clinical trials at the NIH and food safety inspections and import monitoring by the FDA.