The AAMC submitted extensive comments on lessons learned from COVID-19 and recommendations for future preparedness on July 1, in response to a white paper released by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee [see Washington Highlights, June 12].
In the letter, AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD, noted the strong, longstanding track record of bipartisan committee leadership supporting the nation’s preparedness and response efforts. “While the country and the world are still combatting the coronavirus pandemic, the AAMC hopes to continue working with the Committee to address ongoing challenges while also supporting the efforts in the white paper to document lessons learned from the current COVID-19 response to better prepare for future pandemics,” the letter reads.
The AAMC responded to the five issue areas presented in the white paper by providing feedback and recommendations, including:
- Ensure robust investments in federal agencies to accelerate research and development of countermeasures and clearly delineate the roles of the federal government and other partners, including academic medical centers, in distribution plans.
- Promote measures to prepare for an equitable pandemic response, including enhancing national data collection, effectively communicating health risk, implementing socioculturally appropriate surveillance, and supporting the development of robust contact tracing systems through partnerships with diverse local stakeholders.
- Strengthen the Strategic National Stockpile, including bolstering its inventory, maintaining a real-time dashboard of stockpiled supplies, and providing guidance and funding on stockpiles for hospitals.
- Make permanent the current flexibilities granted to telehealth and support investments to supplement the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, Hospital Preparedness Program, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Provide clearer guidance on the role of the federal government and states in a public health emergency and consolidate authority for all emergency health-related flexibilities under the direction of the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The AAMC’s response also provided additional recommendations beyond the issues presented in the white paper, including:
- Exempt key agencies and programs that support the nation’s COVID-19 response (e.g., the CDC, ASPR, and the National Institutes of Health) from fiscal year 2021 and future budget caps.
- Provide federal support for the health care workforce through expansion of support for physician training, establishment of a provider loan program, and investment in health professions students.
- Provide funding for a new network of hospitals and academic medical centers to develop enhanced pandemic preparedness capabilities.
Sen. Alexander previously noted his intention to use recommendations provided by the public to craft legislation to be considered this year to better prepare for future pandemics.