Closeup image of older adult patient in bed being checked by doctor with stethoscope; Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

A group of 15 healthcare organizations on Tuesday warned a top health official that providers and patients could lose “vital” flexibilities if the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) isn’t extended again. 

“We understand Americans are frustrated with the pandemic and the related ongoing public health measures resulting from it. Health care providers and others across the country’s health care infrastructure are exhausted, as well,” the groups wrote in a letter to Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, 

“We have learned, however, that COVID-19 and its variants take full advantage when we let our guard down,” the organizations added. 

HHS in early April extended the PHE declaration through July 15. With the extension, COVID-19 regulatory waivers, such as exceptions to the three-day stay rule and telehealth flexibilities, will be around at least through mid-July.

The group, which includes the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said patients can receive the care they need during the PHE because providers are empowered with the flexibilities they need.

“Continuing the PHE promotes a state of readiness by ensuring hospitals, health systems, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, clinical laboratories and other providers have the ability to rapidly increase their capacity to care for patients, most effectively utilize their workforce, and pivot to caring for both COVID-19 patients and those in need of ongoing care,” they wrote. “As in many sectors, healthcare is experiencing severe workforce shortages, which can impact access to care for all patients.” 

They also warned that the PHE should supplement, not supplant in any way, the Biden administration’s ongoing work for more resources to help pay for prevention, diagnosis and treatments related to COVID-19. 

“We urge the Administration to maintain the PHE until we experience an extended period of greater stability and, guided by science and data, can safely unwind the resulting flexibilities,” letter authors concluded.