President Joe Biden
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A group of Republican lawmakers have called on President Joe Biden to end the COVID-19 public health emergency designation now that there’s more access to vaccines and effective treatments to combat the disease. 

Doing so would put an end to several valuable flexibilities and critical resources for nursing homes that they want to see extended once the PHE ends. 

“Our nursing home members, like many providers across the aging services continuum and other businesses across the country, are experiencing a crisis in hiring and retaining staff — like never before” Ruth Katz, senior vice president of policy at LeadingAge, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. 

“If and when the PHE ends, there will still be a need for relief funding and help with the unprecedented staffing challenges,” she explained. 

The Republican request was made by more than 70 House lawmakers in a signed letter to the president and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra dated Thursday, NPR first reported. They argued that current “heavy-handed government interventions are doing more harm than good.” 

They suggested the federal government should immediately begin the process of ending the PHE so the country can “get back to normal.”

“Instead of keeping us in a permanent state of emergency, it is time for this administration [to] put people first and stop clinging to powers you currently enjoy under the PHE,” they wrote. 

The current PHE designation is set to expire in mid-April. Becerra in the past has said that his office would give at least 60 days’ notice before the official end of PHE.

Katz explained that providers very much want to see many of the PHE waivers, such as those for telehealth and the three-day stay waiver, extended or even made permanent. 

“The good news is that, regarding telehealth provisions, there is some indication that Congress understands the importance of access. People need to be able to use telehealth in whatever place they call home and providers need to be able to bill for it,” Katz said. 

Providers also don’t want the pipeline of extra resources that nursing homes and other aging services providers are receiving to come to an end. 

“They are already struggling to ensure they have enough testing kits, for example, whether to do the testing required by [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] or to conduct additional testing to keep residents healthy and safe,” she added.