CARES Act Confronts Some Essential Needs, While Important Challenges Remain
With attention to diagnostic, treatment, health care and community needs that must be met if we are to reverse the trajectory of COVID-19 spread in the United States, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act addresses some of the most critical challenges facing our country in the weeks and months ahead.
Provisions in the bill that will improve access to prompt diagnosis and effective treatment include:
- A requirement for insurance coverage of diagnostic tests still under review for emergency use authorization. This will increase access to urgently needed new tools by enabling implementation of the updated Feb. 29 policy allowing immediate use of tests that have been validated by developers, without leaving patients open to surprise billing.
- A provision improving Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reimbursement for new antibiotics. Recognizing the role that secondary bacterial infections are playing in in this pandemic, particularly for patients on ventilators, this provision is one way to enable the use of the most effective medicines, protect the antibiotics market and encourage antibiotic stewardship and surveillance during this crisis and beyond.
- A provision increasing Medicare reimbursement by 15% for hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19, enabling improved surveillance and appropriate treatment of complex patients.
In addition, the bill would provide critical funding for community health centers and help address urgent needs for telehealth services that will alleviate demands in health care settings and lessen potential exposure to the virus.
At the same time, additional protections are needed for all workers whose lives and livelihoods and those of their families remain under threat from the virus, and from the economic impacts of the measures essential to stopping its spread. All employees must be assured of paid sick and family leave. Funding also is needed for housing services for individuals who are homeless to reduce their risk of infection and help slow the spread of the virus. Greater resources for government agencies working to curtail the soread of the virus will be essential to the broad, all-sector approach needed to gain control over this public health crisis. Both support and enforcement measures to ensure more people can and will stay in their homes and maintain safe distances from one another will be critical to slowing the spread of infection.
As organizations of infectious disease and HIV physicians and health professionals on the front lines of finding, treating, isolating and preventing new infections, the members of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Associaion remain ready to inform and guide the critical policy responses ahead.