AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, issued the following statement on the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which includes important provisions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our country:
“The AAMC appreciates the swift efforts of the U.S. House of Representatives in advancing important priorities to support the nation’s continuing COVID-19 response. The provisions included in The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 would benefit patients, communities, and frontline health care workers and public health professionals involved in the pandemic and prepare the country to rebound economically from this national crisis.
Importantly, the package includes essential funding for state and local jurisdictions, ongoing vaccine development and distribution, and testing and contact tracing. It also includes funding for increased genomic sequencing and surveillance supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help identify and better understand novel variants of the virus. These resources would allow CDC to increase its existing efforts and support partnerships with academic medical centers that have the capacity to expand their ongoing sequencing work. This legislation would also expand access to affordable health care coverage through incentives for states to adopt Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), financial assistance for individuals to purchase coverage through the ACA Marketplaces, enabling states to extend Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for postpartum women, and premium assistance for the continuation of COBRA health care coverage. The pandemic has illustrated the importance of securing access to care for all individuals, and we applaud these targeted policies to improve coverage.
The package also includes important funding for the National Health Service Corps and much-needed initiatives to address mental health challenges, burnout, and suicide among health professionals—all issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic—as proposed in the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. In addition, we are pleased the legislation includes funds to support medical students affected by COVID-19, such as emergency financial aid grants to help students cover costs incurred during the pandemic.
While we are grateful that the legislative package includes $600 million for the National Science Foundation and the authority for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to distribute its funds for medical care and health needs to the VA research program, it also will be essential to address the impact of the pandemic on our nation’s overall research enterprise. This includes life-saving research and clinical trials in other chronic or terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. Additionally, the AAMC strongly supports the funding outlined in the bipartisan Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act for federal research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, to prevent delays in all scientific discovery and to reverse the detrimental effect the pandemic is having on the research workforce. Early-career investigators, female scientists, and researchers with caregiving responsibilities are especially impacted.
Finally, the AAMC also urges Congress to include additional financial relief for the nation’s teaching hospitals and faculty physicians so that they can continue to provide the care that patients need. The initial funds allocated by Congress proved crucial to ensuring patient access to care by covering expenses and lost revenues due to the pandemic. However, nearly all of these financial resources have been allocated, and challenges remain as providers continue to care for critically ill patients, coordinate vaccination efforts, supply frontline health care workers with appropriate personal protective equipment, and provide care for their communities. It is important that Congress replenish these funds to help teaching hospitals and faculty physicians continue their fundamental patient care and community engagement missions while ensuring the health and well-being of the patients and communities they serve.”