Editors’ Note: This article was accepted on April 17, 2020, and was accurate at that time. We are seeing sweeping regulatory changes and new bills passed at an incredible pace, so we may have more updaates by the time you read this. Visit www.acep.org/COVID19-advocacy for the latest news as this crisis evolves.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 39 – No 05 – May 2020
Our mission statement says it loud and clear: ACEP is the leading advocate for emergency physicians, their patients, and the public. And never has our mission been more important than during this COVID-19 pandemic.
While you have been digging in on the front lines, we have been deep in the federal trenches, pressing for physician safety and regulatory improvements to help you save more lives.
The political environment is moving at an unprecedented pace, but that’s fine with us—after all, emergency physicians thrive on urgency and action. Your collective calm and competence during this crisis are shining a spotlight on what makes this specialty so…special. Never has the voice of emergency medicine been so instrumental.
That Escalated Quickly
When COVID-19 came on the scene, your ACEP advocacy team quickly developed a comprehensive list of policy changes that would address our complicated concerns: workforce protection and mobility, access to care, and frontline financial support. We sent this list to all members of Congress and policymakers involved in the development of COVID-19 legislation and regulations, and our chapters have used the same list for state-level advocacy.
Social distancing was already in place, but we made sure your voices were heard. ACEP hosted two virtual Hill briefings for congressional staff: The first featured emergency physicians from Washington state who gave frontline accounts from the first significant outbreak of COVID-19 patients in the United States, and the second included ACEP leaders who spoke directly to our policy priorities while providing perspective on what it’s like to be a frontline physician during a pandemic. On April 28, we hosted 306 legislative meetings during Virtual Hill Day in lieu of our normal Leadership & Advocacy Conference.
On the regulatory side, we sent a letter to Alex Azar, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), outlining specific changes and regulatory waivers that would protect emergency physicians and other frontline health care staff while increasing patient access to care.
These initial letters to Congress and the policies therein kicked off a quick cascade of significant changes that have had a major impact on emergency medicine. Here’s a progress report outlining where we stand on our federal and regulatory COVID-19 policy priorities.