The public health emergency (PHE) declaration for COVID-19 is set to expire on April 16.
Several national hospital associations, including the American Hospital Association (AHA) and Federation of American Hospitals (FAH), signed a letter urging that the COVID-19 public health emergency be extended.
The letter, addressed to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, stated that while infections and hospitalizations are decreasing, hospitals and health systems are still treating COVID-19 patients daily. Other concerns listed included the risk of children under 5 years old and immunocompromised individuals getting infected, as well as concerns over rising Omicron subvariant cases in Europe and what it could mean for the U.S.
Joining the AHA and FAH in signing the letter include America's Essential Hospitals, Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and Children's Hospital Association.
"Regardless of potential new case increases, our members continue to face challenges related to workforce shortages and staff burnout," the letter said. "Continuing disruptions in the supply chain leading to shortages of supplies and a need for further clinical guidance regarding the symptoms of and best practices of treatment for long COVID-19 patients."
By extending the PHE declaration for COVID-19, the Department of Health and Human Services can waive certain requirements for programs like Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and HIPAA. Funding for state Medicaid programs, as designated in the Families First Coronavirus Act, is tied to the length of the PHE declaration, which has helped provide coverage to vulnerable populations during the economic downturn.
"The PHE allows our members the flexibilities and resources to respond to the COVID-19 virus, while best serving our patients," the letter continued. "As we move forward, we urge the administration to work closely with patients, providers, and stakeholders to ensure access to care is preserved."
PHE declarations are declared in 90-day increments, with the previous extension set to expire on April 16.
With the PHE declaration, the Department of Health and Human Services is able to waive certain requirements for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and HIPAA.
The PHE also allows for flexibility in hospital operations and utilization of resources.