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U.S. Senate Passes Coronavirus Funding Package; Supports Public Health Activities, Provides Emergency Telehealth Waiver

Today, the U.S. Senate approved an $8.3 billion spending package to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), delivering the bill to the President later today.

In addition to providing crucial resources to support the public health response, importantly, the legislation pushes forward several initiatives to help alleviate the stress on front-line health departments, including allowing seniors to access telemedicine services for coronavirus treatment. Telehealth concerns are addressed by allowing the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to waive certain Medicare telehealth restrictions during the coronavirus public health emergency. These waivers would allow Medicare providers to furnish telehealth services to Medicare patients regardless of whether the patient is in a rural community, also allowing beneficiaries to receive care from physicians and other practitioners in their homes.

The bill provides $2.2 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support federal, state, and local agencies to aid in their response, including:

  • $950 million to conduct public health activities
  • $300 million for the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund to support immediate response activities
  • $300 million for global disease detection and emergency response

The bill provides that half of the $950 million dedicated to public health activities must be allocated within 30 days, and will be used to support:

  • Surveillance for coronavirus
  • Laboratory testing and contact tracing to detect positive cases
  • Infection control at the local level and migration in areas with person-to-person transmission to prevent additional cases

Broadly, the package will support CDC's repatriation and quarantine efforts, laboratory testing, emergency operations, epidemiological investigations, public information, and surveillance and data analysis, and provide for reimbursement for state and local costs incurred for coronavirus preparedness and response activities between January 20 and enactment.

The bill also provides for:

  • More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics
  • Nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support health care preparedness and community health centers, and to improve medical surge capacity—$500 million of which will be used for the procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies in areas with a shortage of medical supplies
  • $61 million to speed review new therapies and handle potential drug and device shortages

HAP’s emergency management team continues to work with state and federal government partners, local public health officials, and the hospital community to coordinate preparedness and response to infectious diseases including COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.

The most accurate and timely information about COVID-19 is available at the Department of Health and CDC webpages.

For more information about HAP’s emergency management and preparedness for COVID-19, contact Mark Ross, HAP’s vice president, emergency management.

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