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UPDATED: Hospitals, physicians, nurses ask for coronavirus disaster declaration

President Trump is expected to make an emergency disaster declaration today at 3 p.m.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a news conference today at 3 p.m. ET in which he is expected to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

This would open up billions of additional dollars to fight the virus under the emergency powers of the Strafford Act.

Provider organizations sent a letter Thursday to Vice President Michael Pence asking him to declare the novel coronavirus outbreak a disaster or emergency under the National Emergencies Act or Strafford Act.

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The step is necessary for Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to waive certain Medicare, Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program requirements so that hospitals, physicians, and other providers may share resources in a coordinated effort.

The groups also want assurances for coverage of testing and treatment, especially for the uninsured.

Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as commercial payers, have agreed to cover screening and treatment for COVID-19, the groups said.

"While not part of the Section 1332 waivers that can be implemented by HHS, we ask for federal assistance in covering costs for the uninsured, consistent with responses to several previous emergencies and natural disasters," they said. "Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is crucial to the health of our nation. It is of utmost importance that any concerns about costs for testing and care be removed so that individuals can be screened and if necessary treated."

The letter was sent Thursday by the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Provders need the Trump Administration to declare a national emergency for states to get Medicaid waivers to make it easier to sign up poor patients and for the homeless to get coverage. The president's reluctance to declare a national emergercy slows efforts by states to bring on new medical providers, set up emergency clinics or begin quarantining and caring for the homeless population at risk from the virus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Secretary Azar's January 21 declaration of a public health emergency was an important first step, the AHA, AMA and ANA said. However, more is needed to address the spreading outbreak of COVID-19.

THE LARGER TREND

Similar emergency declarations were issued in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricanes Ike and Gustav (2008), the North Dakota Flooding (2009 and 2010), and the H1N1 pandemic (2009 – 2010).

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com