Suggested priorities include funding for COVID-19 response, improvements to the ACA, access to care for women and measures to end disparities in health care
Dec. 18, 2020 (ACP) – From authorizing additional funding for the COVID-19 response to beefing up aspects of the Affordable Care Act and more, the American College of Physicians is offering recommendations to the Biden-Harris transition team on how to best improve the health care system and the health of all Americans.
In a letter to President-Elect Joe Biden, Dr. Jacqueline W. Fincher, ACP president, lauded many of his team's initial actions and called for executive orders in their first 100 days as well as implementation of other policies through legislative and regulatory action to begin to fix what is broken across America's health care system.
“ACP is ready, willing, and able to do all that we can as the nation's internal medicine physicians to help the Biden-Harris transition team achieve the better that we believe is possible for America's health care system,” Fincher said in a news release. She added that many of the Biden-Harris goals and priorities are very much in-line with ACP's new vision for America's health care system.
ACP's letter also urged the new administration to continue and even expand upon initiatives and policies from President Trump's administration that are strongly supported by ACP, including reducing paperwork and other regulatory burdens on physicians and patients.
ACP Lauds Key Nods
So far, President-Elect Biden has announced that Dr. Rochelle Walensky will be appointed as the next director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy has been nominated to serve as the 21st surgeon general of the United States, and Dr. Anthony Fauci will stay on as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and will also be a chief medical adviser in President-Elect Biden's incoming administration.
All of these nominees are ACP members, noted Bob Doherty, ACP senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy. “We are very, very pleased that this administration recognizes the unique expertise, experience and skills that internal medicine specialists bring to public health and the pandemic,” he said.
Coping With COVID-19
In its letter, ACP urges the transition team to pass a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package during the first 100 days of the new Congress.
“We will need additional resources to ensure we get as much vaccine into the arms of people as possible,” Doherty said. “Getting approval of a vaccine is just the start. We need to prioritize who will get the shots. We need the needles, the doses and equitable distribution,” he said. More funding is also needed for testing and contact tracing. “There is a light at end of tunnel as we emerge from the pandemic, but more resources are needed,” Doherty said.
The Biden team has already come out strong in favor of mandating masks or face coverings in all federal facilities and public transit systems and will support broader mask-wearing orders, which the ACP supports. “We are very encouraged by the administration's commitment to having the federal response to COVID-19 led by scientists and science,” Doherty said.
ACP also urged the incoming administration to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by immediately rolling back policies that allow the sale of health plans that do not cover essential care. Among other items, “we would like to see the administration put more money into outreach for ACA enrollment and expand the enrollment period to longer than 45 days,” Doherty said.
Other Priorities for the Biden-Harris Team
ACP is calling on the new administration to improve access to heath care for women in several ways, including the immediate reversal of the Title X gag rule and restoring funding to family planning clinics. In addition, ACP suggested several measures to end discrimination, racism and disparities in health care.
Another key advocacy issue of ACP is reducing injuries and deaths from firearms, and more work is needed to make this happen. “We would like them to tighten background checks and address and direct federal agencies to support and fund programs that collect public health-based information on gun deaths and injuries,” Doherty said.
In the letter, ACP also asks the team to reverse Trump Administration policies that were harmful to immigrant health by immediately reuniting kids who have been separated from their parents at the border and by making it easier for international medical graduates to obtain visas and permanent residences in the United States.
Still, there are many positive things that the Trump Administration accomplished, and ACP urges the new administration to continue and strengthen these accomplishments, including an increase in Medicare payments for primary care physicians, efforts to put patients before paperwork, and changes to access and reimbursement schedules for telehealth services that should remain in place even after the pandemic is over.
The detailed letter also touched on improving and expanding Medicaid, making prescription drugs affordable and addressing climate change by rejoining the Paris Agreement and initiating other actions to reduce carbon emissions. Biden has already stated that he will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement adopted by nearly every nation in 2015 to address climate change and its negative effects on health and the environment.
“We learned a lot about the shortcomings of our health care system during the pandemic, and as we go into a new Congress and new presidency, we know that bold things need to be done,” Doherty said.