July 23, 2021

COVID-19 Advocacy & Stimulus Package/CARES Act

The week of March 9th ACU began aggressively working to inform Congress and their staff about the needs of clinicians caring for the underserved and critical support needed for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Specifically, ACU advocated for: immediate access and priority distribution of PPEs, N95s and sanitation materials for clinicians working in underserved communities, flexibility and adequate reimbursement related to telehealth, flexibility for NHSC providers relative to interstate licensure, practice location, required clinical hours as well as liability coverage, and funding for the NHSC, requesting $930 million in immediate supplemental funding and $3 billion in long term reauthorization funding.

The final CARES Act, singed into law by the President on Friday contains the following:

  • Flexibility for members of the NHSC during COVID-19 emergency, addressing clinical hours, practice location and liability.
  • Telehealth flexibility for providing care during an emergency for health centers, including Medicare.
  • NHSC mandatory funding extension through November 30, 2020.

While the outcome of the CARES Act is far from what is needed to support clinicnians working on the front lines, the inclusion of flexibility measures for the NHSC providers and furnishing care via telehealth addresses two major issues impacting our membership and wider network. The short term extension of NHSC mandatory funding through November 30th, 2020 is not sufficient to support the existing and even greater needs of key health care organizations providing for the underserved. NHSC funding remains a major issue and priority focus of ACU advocacy as work continues to address the COVID 19 pandemic and beyond.

Looking forward, House and Senate contacts have already signaled that there will be a fourth and possibly fifth stimulus package to address ongoing needs and challenges associated with COVID-19. To this end, ACU has already begun engaging key Congressional offices to reassert the critical need for immediate NHSC funding.  ACU will also advocate for the urgent need for financial support to provider organizations facing staff layoffs and furloughs as a result of decreased patient visits and inadequate reimbursements for telehealth. Lastly, Telehealth reimbursement issues will continue to be a priority as ACU works with Congressional leaders to address ongoing challenges for those providing care in underserved communities.

In addition to these priorities, ACU is seeking input and counsel from ACU membership and the network at large to inform other needs related to policy and advocacy. Regular information sharing from the field, partners and Congress is ongoing in an effort to ensure the critical needs of our clinicians are addressed and supported.

While the House and Senate is now effectively on ‘recess’ until the end of April, there is a great likelihood that they will need to return to Washington, or otherwise engage in their work from afar, within the next two weeks. ACU will continue to call on Board leadership, key contacts and our grassroots advocacy network as necessary to urge Congress to support ACU asks and priorities as the next stimulus package takes shape.

If you have questions, concerns or suggestions relative to policy and advocacy, please email Amanda Pears Kelly at apearskelly@clinicians.org.