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U.S. Senate Committee Approves Continuation of Hospital Public Health Preparedness Program

May 23, 2018

A U.S. Senate committee has approved legislation that supports the nation’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced bipartisan legislation championed by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D, PA) and Richard Burr (R, NC). The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI) of 2018, S. 2852, reauthorizes the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) for five years. The bill also would develop regional health care emergency preparedness and response systems.

The HPP supports:

  • Enhanced planning and response
  • Integration of public and private sector emergency planning to increase the preparedness, response, and surge capacity of hospitals
  • Improved state and local infrastructures that help health systems and hospitals prepare for public health emergencies

The HELP Committee held two hearings earlier this year to get expert input about reauthorization priorities. The committee called for feedback on a discussion draft released during April. In response, HAP provided input that aligned with comments submitted by the American Hospital Assocation (AHA).

Throughout the process, HAP has emphasized the need to:

  • Increase the HPP’s authorization over the current level of $374.7 million, and fully appropriate the resources needed to respond to emerging threats and heightened risks
  • Ensure adequate and reliable funding beyond the current amounts available for federal preparedness programs to develop a fully functional and sustainable regional public health emergency preparedness and response system
  • Improve the ability of health professional volunteers to respond to public health emergencies regardless of state licensure requirements
  • Address the medical liability concerns that limit the willingness and ability of health professionals to volunteer

In a letter of support for PAHPAI, the AHA expressed appreciation for the reauthorization legislation. But AHA leaders cautioned that the ever-changing and growing threats that hospitals, health care systems, and communities face, require a more significant investment in health care system preparedness. 

Current attention on the Ebola resurgence in Congo serves as a reminder of this urgency. Significant weather events and mass causalities throughout the country highlight the importance of ensuring an appropriate level of investment.

In Pennsylvania, federal funding through the HPP helps to support the Pennsylvania Health Care Coalition Preparedness Program. This partnership between HAP and the Pennsylvania Department of Health offers a regional approach to refine, enhance, and test preparedness activities and response plans across the commonwealth.

HAP appreciates the sustained efforts by Senators Casey and Burr during the last decade to establish and support an all-hazards framework that strengthens public health preparedness capabilities. HAP will continue working with Senator Casey to ensure sustained investments are dedicated to support hospital preparedness, and limited resources are most efficiently and effectively used for health care delivery system readiness.

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R, TN) urged the full Senate to consider the legislation quickly, given the September deadline to reauthorize the preparedness programs. Before the bill goes to the Senate floor, the committee will be working to address several outstanding policy issues, including clarifying liability protections for volunteers during public health emergencies.  

Questions may be addressed to Michael Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration, or Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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