President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency funding measure to stem the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak Friday morning.
The president signed the bill one day after the Senate approved the appropriations bill, which includes a provision to lift waive restrictions on telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries.
The decision was praised by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), which also urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement the waiver “as soon as possible.”
“We are heartened by the swift actions being taken by Congress to put the right tools in the hands of healthcare professionals to effectively address the COVID-19 outbreak,” Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of ATA, said in a statement. “Telehealth is well-suited to provide one-to-many care that is safe, effective and efficient. We are seeing the significant value telehealth offers, not only in public health emergencies, but also in day-to-day care delivery.”
Additionally, the American Medical Association (AMA) commended the prompt action from the federal government to support emergency care providers and reduce restrictions on telehealth services in the face of an epidemic.
“We are pleased that Congress quickly approved this critical bipartisan supplemental appropriations package in response to COVID-19,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, president of the AMA, said in a statement. “It is particularly important that it will lift Medicare restrictions on the use of telehealth during this public health emergency—something that will limit further exposure and help stop the spread of the virus in the health care setting. Funding for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and medical supplies is necessary to bolster the health care response to COVID-19.”
As COVID-19 continued to spread rapidly at the end of February, the White House sent an urgent request for $2.5 billionto combat the deadly virus.
The request was criticized by several leaders on Capitol Hill as too little to combat the outbreak, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who requested $8.5 billion in emergency funding from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
In addition to the White House’s approval of the emergency funding measure, CMS ordered hospitals and nursing homes to ensure that infection control procedures are in place to handle the coronavirus.
One day before the emergency funding bill was signed, HIMSS 20, the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), was canceled due to spread of COVID-19.
President Trump was scheduled to address the annual healthcare conference, which typically draws around 45,000 attendees.