WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 — The Biden administration has already taken actions that will help to improve health and health care in the United States, says the American College of Physicians (ACP) in reaction to the day one announcements from the new administration.
“Our country is in an unprecedented health care crisis. The crisis is especially due to the challenge of combatting COVID-19, but it also includes multiple other issues like racial disparities, immigration, poverty, and climate change that impact the health of our patients and our physician workforce,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “The initial announcements from President Biden are both good steps forward for the new administration to address many crucial issues, and a promising sign that he is going to make improving health for all Americans a priority.”
ACP signaled support for several of the executive orders and other decisions that were announced by the administration, including:
- Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security. ACP has been on record about the need for a strong, coordinated, national response to COVID-19. This order establishes federal government coordination and actions to address racial disparities in COVID-19 infections; increase the production, supply, and distribution of personal protective equipment, vaccines, tests, and other supplies; including through the use of the Defense Production Act; increase COVID-19 testing; and strengthens U.S. relationships internationally including collaborating and engaging with the World Health Organization. President Biden, in a letter to Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, retracted the previous administration’s intent to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) and advised him that the United States intends to remain a member of the WHO.
- Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing. As recommended by ACP, this executive order supports evidence-based practices to limit spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, physical distancing, and other recommendations; requires federal employees, federal contractors, and visitors in federal facilities and on federal land to wear a face mask, practice social distancing, and adhere to other CDC recommendations; and seeks to identify and inform agencies of options to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing.
- Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. Understanding and addressing disparities and discrimination experienced by those who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality is critical to improving health care for all Americans. Consistent with ACP’s policies to address disparities in discrimination in health and health care, this executive order seeks to advance principles, policies, and approaches to achieving equity across the federal government, including requiring federal agencies to review agency programs and policies to assess systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities for marginalized and underserved communities; consider whether new regulations may be needed to advance equity in these programs; and direct resources towards underserved communities. Also as recommended by ACP, this Executive Order revokes Executive Order 13950 issued by the previous administration, which prohibited federal agencies and contractors from offering or supporting certain forms of implicit bias training.
- Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States. ACP supports the importance and value of allowing legal entry to the United States, including by physicians and other scientists, for study, research, work, and other purposes subject to applicable US visa requirements, without regard to country of origin. ACP strongly opposed the previous administration’s Executive Order to restrict entry to the U.S. to individuals based solely on country of origin and welcomes the proclamation to revoke the restrictions and instead use applicable law and visa processing standards.
- Pausing federal student loan payments. This proclamation to extend the pause on federal student loan payments and collections through September 30, 2021, and keep the interest rate at 0%, is especially important for physicians who may be experiencing a reduced salary while also helping our health care system cope with COVID-19.
- Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. Working to prevent and end discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is an essential step toward helping to mitigate the negative health impact that discrimination and disparities have on the LGBTQ population, and ACP supports these efforts. This Executive Order would fully enforce laws prohibiting discrimination, address overlapping forms of discrimination, and ask agencies to determine whether further action or new regulations are needed.
- Executive Order on Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). ACP has long supported the DACA program and finding a pathway to citizenship for individuals in the program. Those who are eligible for the program include students who are currently enrolled in medical school and physicians and nurses that have the experience and background to treat a culturally diverse population. This Executive Order directs the Department of Homeland Security to continue the program.
- Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis; Presidential Statement on Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. ACP believes that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are crucial to mitigating the impact that climate change is already having on human health in the U.S. and across the world. Consistent with ACP policies, this Executive Order directs federal agencies to follow the science on this issue to improve public health and protect the environment and direct agencies to review existing rules that conflict with these goals. ACP strongly disagreed with the previous administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and supports President Biden’s decision to recommit to the agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
- Executive Order on Modernizing Regulatory Review. ACP supports requiring federal agencies to both move to reduced administrative burdens and address ways to reduce disparities and discrimination caused by existing regulations. ACP also welcomes the Memorandum on Regulatory Freeze Pending Review which allow for a more thorough review and better engagement of health care advocates in the final regulations put forward by the previous administration, several of which were finalized on an accelerated basis without the usual opportunity and consideration of comments from ACP and others about their impact on patients.
“There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to tackle all of these issues in substantive ways,” continued Dr. Fincher. “But these actions taken together are a crucial step to point our country in the right direction to the benefit of our patients, at a time of unprecedented threats to their health.”
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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