ACP calls for better coronavirus response

March 5, 2020

The organization sent a letter to congressional leaders seeking more funding to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) asked congressional leaders for more government action to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in a letter dated March 3.

The letter was sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer on behalf of the 159,000 ACP members.

It requested Congress approve supplemental bills with the highest possible funding levels to address the disease, and to not simply use funds already earmarked for public health initiatives.

“The COVID-19 virus is rapidly becoming a public-health emergency that poses a grave risk to Americans,” reads the letter signed by Robert McLean, MD, president of ACP. “Accordingly, there is simply no time to waste. . . Congress must make available all the needed resources so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal departments and agencies can continue the effort, such as providing guidance and support to state and local health departments, physicians and other clinicians, and the public.”

The ACP also offered assistance with keeping patients and physicians safe to HHS and the CDC in a separate letter.

These letters came on the heels of another attempt to get the Trump administration to respond more aggressively to the disease through an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing the administration’s coronavirus taskforce.

which was signed by hundreds of public health and legal experts, calls on the administration to provide more funding to fight the coronavirus, manage the surging demand for healthcare, provide clear evidence-based communications, and make support and resources available for fair and effective infection control.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has infected more than 90,000 people and caused 3,000 deaths worldwide. On March 5, California joined other states in declaring a state of emergency over the disease. There have been 161 confirmed cases in the U.S. and has been linked to 11 deaths, according to The New York Times.

On March 4, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a robust $8.3 billion funding package which seeks to confront the virus’ sweep across the country. Of that package, $7.8 billion will go to agencies fighting the virus and more than $500 million to enable telehealth services to be provided to elderly Medicare patients, The Times reports.

The House’s package, which passed 415 to 2, is expected to be passed quickly by the Senate, The Times reports.

Pence said March 4 that coronavirus tests have been designated by HHS as an essential health benefit, subject to coverage without price-sharing by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid, but The Times notes that under the law, these benefits can be subject to both co-payments and deductibles.

HHS has not produced any new regulations or guidance on the matter, but has announced initial funding for a “limited number of” communities supporting their responses to the virus.