For three years, hospitals, health systems and health care workers have been on the front lines of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in a century. They’ve bravely battled COVID-19, treated sicker patients whose care was delayed, and managed surges in flu, RSV and other viruses, among many other challenges.

America’s hospitals and health systems have faced these difficulties head on. They have saved countless lives and remain a source of strength and comfort for their patients and communities.

These efforts will continue as our nation begins to see COVID-19 as more of an endemic disease. On May 11, the Administration will end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations. The decision to sunset the emergencies is reflective of the evolving nature of fighting the disease.

However, the ending of the emergency declarations also present a complicated picture that affects many different care provisions, waivers and flexibilities that unfold over various dates beginning on May 11.

To help prepare the field for this transition we shared a Special Bulletin outlining a number of changes that will affect hospital operations and key dates for when certain waivers will expire. We’ll be developing additional resources and sharing more materials from federal agencies throughout the next few months.

At the same time, based on the experience of the past three years, we recognize that we cannot go back to delivering care exactly the way we did before COVID-19. That’s why we must build on the lessons learned and the advancements in science and delivery of care we made to create a more effective, equitable, patient-focused and stable health care system.

To do that, we need the Administration and Congress to act. This week, we sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra urging the department to take a number of actions to stabilize the health care delivery system, support the health care workforce, and remove unnecessary administrative and regulatory burden.

For example, we are asking HHS to:

  • Make permanent many policies authorized through waiver authority during the PHE that enabled hospitals and health systems to deliver care more effectively and efficiently. These policies include expanded use of telehealth, workforce flexibilities, and the reduction of unnecessary regulatory and data reporting requirements.
  • Continue to assist states and other stakeholders in ensuring that the Medicaid redetermination process does not leave individuals, especially children, without access to coverage and care.
  • Create new processes for evaluating and revising certain hospital Conditions of Participation, as well as updating the department’s emergency preparedness plan. This will enable hospitals and health systems to continue to innovate in ways that will improve quality and access while also adequately preparing them for the next national emergency.

At the same time, a number of reforms require congressional action. We will be working with Congress to enact key policies, including:

  • Making permanent certain telehealth flexibilities.
  • Establishing a permanent hospital-at-home program.
  • Supporting hospitals’ ability to discharge patients, including establishing a temporary per diem Medicare payment targeted to hospitals to ease capacity issues and providing additional resources to post-acute care providers to allow them to continue to ensure patient access to care.

Watch for additional updates and resources from the AHA to support your efforts, as well as how you can get involved in advocating for these important priorities.

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