“I don’t know of any circumstances – I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be extended. I would be quite surprised if that was not extended, “added Azar,” said a source.
Governors and health officials have for weeks pushed the Trump administration to push for an extension of the public health emergency, with huge resources at stake. The administration has used emergency powers to enable, among other things, a massive increase in scale in visits to telecare and emergency use of new drugs and tests. The emergency statement has also allowed underfunded state and local health facilities to reassign federally funded personnel to focus on the virus response, as well as new flexibility for government-led health insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Public health emergencies need to be renewed every 90 days by HHS, and the coronavirus statement expires on July 25. The emergency was first issued in January, shortly after the coronavirus emerged in China, and it was renewed earlier in late April.
States and lobby groups that represent a wide range of interests in healthcare have begged the Trump administration to renew, although HHS spokesman Michael Caputo attempted to address those concerns last week.
“Enough already. @HHSGov expects to extend the Public Health Emergency due to COVID-19 before it expires. We’ve already updated this PHE once,” Caputo tweeted.
But some groups said their concerns would not be resolved until the statement was signed, citing the Trump administration’s incoherent response to the pandemic.
“This has not been a group that has acted in an organized, coordinated or rational manner since they came in, so without advocates and experts who led them to do some of the right things at every step,” said Georges Benjamin, Executive Director from the American Public Health Association.
An extension would last until the end of October, shortly before Election Day. Public health groups, warning that the corona virus will challenge the country in the coming months, said efforts to combat the virus would be hampered by the withdrawal of the government’s emergency powers.
“It is imperative that the federal government continue to deploy all resources and authorities necessary to protect the public and assist states and places in responding to this urgent situation,” more than fifty groups recently wrote to Azar.
David Lim and Mohana Ravindranath contributed to this report.