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  • Washington Highlights

    Stakeholders Highlight Need for Public Health Emergency Extension


    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    A group of 15 health and public health organizations, including the AAMC, sent a June 23 letter urging Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to renew the public health emergency (PHE) declaration related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    HHS originally issued the declaration at the end of January, triggering a set of flexibilities and authorities, such as relaxing pre-pandemic telemedicine requirements to broaden access to care as the nation responds to COVID-19. HHS renewed the January declaration shortly before its 90-day expiration in April, extending the current emergency through July 25.

    The letter requests another renewal of at least 90 days, noting that “many states and localities are still experiencing dramatic increases in SARS-CoV-2 infections and hospitalizations due to COVID-19. At the same time, these areas are preparing for seasonal threats such as hurricanes, wildfires, influenza and more. We cannot afford to ease up on our response to this grave threat.”

    In addition to the PHE declaration under the HHS secretary, the president has the authority to issue national emergency declarations under either the Stafford Act or the National Emergencies Act (NEA), which both grant federal agencies additional flexibilities. The White House has exercised both authorities.

    President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on March 13 under the NEA, which has allowed HHS to grant, under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, waivers from certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements, among other flexibilities. In a March 13 letter, he also issued an emergency determination under the Stafford Act.