|During the past several weeks, our nation and world have experienced an unprecedented threat in the form of coronavirus (COVID-19). Please know, as your Representative, I remain fully committed to combatting coronavirus and am actively engaged with local, state, and federal health officials.
Over the past few weeks, I have worked with my colleagues in Congress to enact policies to help families impacted by coronavirus. First, I supported H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act which provided $7.8 billion in emergency funds to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. I then voted in favor of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This legislation, which was signed into law by the President, provides paid medical and family leave for workers, expands food aid to those in need, supports zero-cost testing, ensures health insurers cover coronavirus-related costs, and provides additional Medicaid resources to individual states. Today, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. If passed, this legislation will get healthcare providers the resources they need to do their jobs, expand access to care for patients, and removes limitations employers and individuals face on their HSA-eligible plans.
While the situation is constantly evolving, I want to make sure you have current information on the United States' efforts to strengthen our healthcare infrastructure.
If you have any questions about the information included below, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My staff and I are here to assist you in any way possible during these uncertain times. You can reach my office by calling (972) 202-4150 or send me an email online.
|Keeping You and Your Family Healthy
There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure altogether. It's important for communities and families to take the necessary steps, like washing your hands, social distancing, and staying home if you're sick, to avoid spreading the virus.
Below are prevention tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaningspray or wipe
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If soap is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
We need to make sure our healthcare workers and those on the front lines have the supplies they need to safely treat patients. I have been concerned by recent reports of mask shortages for health care workers. That's why Congress has worked with the administration to provide the resources needed to deploy existing stockpiles, and to ramp up production of masks and other personal protective equipment for medical employees all over the country. America-based production of medical supplies will continue ramping up in the coming days and weeks.
The CARES Act provides billions of dollars for hospital and health provider reimbursements, procurement of new medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), medical research, state and local preparedness grants, improvements to public health data infrastructure, and greater access to Coronavirus healthcare for all Americans. Specifically, this bill:
- Provides $100 billion to hospitals and healthcare providers for Coronavirus-related reimbursements to ensure providers can continue to operate and treat patients
- Provides $16 billion in new funds to enable the continued procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and other needed supplies to combat the Coronavirus outbreak
- Provides $11 billion for the development and production of vaccines and medicines to combat Coronavirus
Sending in Reinforcements
Just this week, Governor Abbott fully activated the Texas National Guard. In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) is transferring five million respirator masks and two thousand ventilators to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS), bolstering the medical community’s ability to combat coronavirus on the front lines. The U.S. Navy is also deploying two hospital ships to augment the civilian medical capacity.
Creation of a Health Care Ready Reserve Corps
The CARES Act establishes a Ready Reserve Corps under the United States Public Health Service to ensure our nation has enough trained doctors and nurses to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak, and other public health emergencies in the future. The Ready Reserve Corps is intended to operate in a manner similar to military branch reserve components, and will be comprised of health care professionals that can quickly augment existing health professionals in the hardest hit areas of our country.
Liability Protections for Healthcare Volunteers
The CARES Act provides liability protections to health care professionals who provide volunteer medical services during the Coronavirus public health emergency. This means with respect to the Coronavirus outbreak, that volunteers are not liable under federal or state law for accidental harm caused in their role as healthcare professional providing services directly responding to this emergency. This Good Samaritan law will enable qualified volunteers to provide vitally needed care to Coronavirus patients without fear of potential legal consequences.
|Expanding Testing Capacity
Our nation’s testing capacity is rapidly expanding. Texas is already able to test over a thousand people per day, and thanks to massive collaboration between government and private industry, in the coming week we will be able to at least double this capacity. In fact, Governor Greg Abbott recently announced plans to create drive-through testing sites across the state.
Collin County Testing Location
Just this week, a testing facility opened up at Baylor Scott and White Health in Plano.Learn how testing is accessed at this testing site here.
Legislation recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump ensures coronavirus tests will be available and accessible for those who need them. Even as availability and access to these tests expands, it is important to know Texas will continue to prioritize testing individuals who display clinical symptoms, and:
Remember, if you think you may have coronavirus, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
- are at higher risk of being seriously affected by coronavirus
- are hospitalized with symptoms
- are health care workers who have been in close contact with coronavirus patients
- have recently travelled to areas affected by the virus
|Bolstering our Healthcare System
The CARES Act expands the available uses of telehealth services to respond to surging requests. This enables more providers to diagnose and treat patients in a safe and fast environment without requiring patients to leave their own homes. Specifically, this bill:
- Eliminates the need for a pre-existing relationship with a doctor in order to initiate a telehealth appointment
- Enables Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to host telehealth practitioners.
- Reauthorizes Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant programs promoting telehealth.
- Allows Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to cover the costs of telehealth services.
- Expands telehealth for use for hospice care by physicians and nurse practitioners.
Texas as well as federal officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have expanded coverage for combatting coronavirus, including:
If you are sick or unable to visit your doctor in person, call your provider and ask if they are offering telehealth options for doctor visits. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 17, 2020, Governor Abbott waived several state regulations on tele health that had previously limited the availability of these resources. That same day, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced increased coverage of telehealth services in Medicare and Medicaid plans.
- Covering physician-ordered tests for COVID-19 – Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP beneficiaries pay no out-of-pocket costs
- Covering all medically necessary coronavirus-related hospitalizations
- Covering costs associated with coronavirus vaccines when they are available
- More information on this expanded access to telehealth services can be found here
In response, many medical providers and doctor’s offices are modifying their operations to provide more patient visits via telephone or secure internet video conference. In certain instances you may need to download software onto your phone or computer to enable a telehealth visit. Some providers may also allow you to correspond with a doctor or other medical provider through secure electronic messages on an app. Be sure to contact your medical provider for more information on their specific tele health offerings.
Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and High-Deductible Health Plans
The CARES Act enables individuals to utilize HSAs or FSAs to purchase over-the-counter medications tax-free without a prescription. This bill will also enable High-Deductible Health Plans to provide coverage for telehealth before the patient hits their annual deductible.
More information can be found at CDC.gov. If you think you may have coronavirus, immediately contact your healthcare provider for guidance.