State of emergency will allow greater flexibility to address COVID-19 crisis

March 13, 2020

President Donald Trump today declared a national state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. He said the move would free up additional funding and waive requirements to speed up coronavirus testing and care. 

The emergency declaration, in conjunction with the administration's prior designation of COVID-19 as a public health emergency on January 31, frees up to $50 billion in federal disaster relief funding and provides the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary with more authority to waive some Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements.

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently joined with the American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association in a letter urging the Administration to declare a national emergency that would give federal agencies greater flexibility in allocating resources to address the crisis.

“AMA commends the Administration for declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency under the Stafford Act. This emergency declaration is necessary to help ensure America’s health care system has sufficient resources to properly respond to the ongoing outbreak, prevent further spread of illness, and keep our communities safe,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D.

“The emergency declaration is needed so that certain regulatory barriers can be removed to allow physicians, hospitals and other health care providers more flexibility in coordinating care for patients. Physicians, nurses, first responders, and other health care professionals across the country are on the front lines in this effort, and streamlining critical processes is vitally important to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”

Trump also said he expected 1.4 million additional tests to be available next week and five million within a month.He asked every hospital in the country to activate its emergency preparedness plans, which could include delaying elective procedures to ensure hospital beds are available for patients who need them. 

Additional details and guidance will be forthcoming from federal agencies, such as HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on the funding and flexibility for physicians and other health care providers to screen, test and treat patients. We will provide an update when those details and guidance are available.

The California Medical Association (CMA) has set up a COVID-19 resource page, where you will find links to the latest news, research and developments on the COVID-19 outbreak for physicians and other health care providers. 


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