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U.S. House Committee Considers Health Care Preparedness Policy

June 06, 2018

U.S. House lawmakers today discussed policy approaches to ensure our nation’s health care readiness for wide-ranging challenges, including public health risks such as Ebola and natural disasters, and security threats ranging from cyberattacks to mass casualty events.

Two panels of experts comprised of key government officials overseeing federal preparedness activities and engaged stakeholders offered recommendations and insight to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee during a hearing reviewing the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA)

PAHPA, first enacted during 2006 and subsequently reauthorized during 2013, provides:

  • Resources for state and local emergency preparedness and response initiatives
  • New authorities for medical surge capacity
  • Advanced development and acquisitions of medical countermeasures

Congress is working to reauthorize the law which expires at the end of the current fiscal year. This legislative hearing today sets up House action on the PAHPA reauthorization following action by the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to advance bipartisan legislation. S. 2852, Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI) of 2018, championed by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D, PA) and Richard Burr (R, NC), would reauthorize the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) for five years and seeks to develop regional health care emergency preparedness and response systems.

In Pennsylvania, federal funding through the HPP helps to support the Pennsylvania Health Care Coalition Preparedness Program, a partnership between HAP and the Pennsylvania Department of Health which offers a regional approach to refine, enhance, and test preparedness activities and response plans across the commonwealth.

HAP has articulated that key priorities in the reauthorization process are to ensure sustained investments are dedicated to support hospital preparedness, and limited resources are most efficiently and effectively utilized for health care delivery system readiness. HAP has urged Congress to authorize adequate funding and, ultimately, make sure the level appropriated for the HPP reflects the necessary investment in emergency preparedness to respond to emerging threats and heightened risks.

While the Senate bill includes a modest increase in the authorization level, an initial draft of the House legislation proposes to provide an annual HPP authorization of only $264.6 million—significantly less than the program’s current authorized funding level of $374.7 million.

In addition to identifying funding as a priority, HAP has called for improving the ability of health professional volunteers to respond to public health emergencies regardless of state licensure requirements, and addressing the medical liability concerns that limit the willingness and ability of health professionals to volunteer.

HAP will continue to work with Senator Casey as the Senate works to move its legislative product and Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation in the House to ensure the final legislative product reflects Pennsylvania’s priorities.

Questions may be addressed to Michael Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration, or Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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