Coronavirus Update: April 2, 2020
At the end of last week, Congress passed the CARES Act, to provide desperately needed relief to American families, individuals, industries, health care systems, and businesses. However, as the country faces an escalation of COVID-19 cases around the country, I continue to advocate for assistance that will address the needs of my constituents and the country. Expanded access to health care services, coverage, and ensuring adequate resources for our health care providers is a top priority for me and many of my colleagues.
More health care providers are turning to telehealth as a way to treat patients while also keeping our providers and patients as safe as possible. Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs) are on the front lines of this pandemic yet are often unable to receive reimbursement for certain telehealth services. I joined colleagues in requesting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expand the ability of FQHCs and RHCs to provide telehealth services by reimbursing for services conducted via phone.
In a public health crisis such as the one we are currently facing, it is essential that people have access to health coverage that could be the defining factor as to whether an individuals is able to seek treatment. Despite the Administration’s refusal to reopen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace to allow people to get insurance, I cosponsored legislation introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) (H.R. 6317) that would establish a special enrollment period during any declared public health emergency. Additionally, this legislation would ensure that patients are covered for prevention, diagnostics, and treatment associated with the public health emergency and at a comparable cost.
I read reports and hear directly from health care providers every day about the lack of necessary resources to adequately treat patients and protect staff. Our hospitals and health care providers are overburdened and constrained by the national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, which is testing their resourcefulness every day. My colleagues and I have sent a letter to the President asking the Administration to conduct a national assessment of critical medical supplies and share with the public a national strategy for acquiring this essential equipment.
The President’s refusal to take whatever action necessary to ensure that these supplies are obtained and distributed to those places where it is needed most has left our health care systems on the verge of crisis, particularly in New Jersey which has the second largest case count in the country. That is why the New Jersey delegation has been persistent in our support of requests for supplies, by asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the authorities necessary, including those of the Defense Production Act, to ensure New Jersey has enough PPE and medical equipment. We have also supported New Jersey’s request for emergency medical supply allocation from the Strategic National Stockpile and have urged the Administration to prioritize New York and New Jersey when it allocates the $100 billion in funding for hospitals provided by the CARES Act.
These are unprecedented times with conditions changing on the ground by the hour. I know that many are struggling to deal with the effects of this pandemic and grappling with the impact it will have on our country, our economy, and our daily lives in the future. However, know that we are all in this together and I will continue to fight for New Jersey and the 8th District every day. We will get through this.
If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington D.C. office at 202-225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov.