Washington, DC — On Thursday, June 25, United States of Care (USofCare) provided feedback to US Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, in response to the Committee’s white paper “Preparing for the Next Pandemic.”
USofCare’s response was developed in consultation with USofCare Board Member, former US Senator Bill Frist, MD, and other members of the USofCare Board and Founder’s Council, which include business leaders and public health experts from across the health care ecosystem.
“Consistent with our mission, we believe federal leadership is essential to both preparing for a pandemic before it occurs and also managing the development and implementation of a national response. That is why we commend Chairman Alexander for undertaking this critical national work and providing this opportunity for expert feedback and collaboration. We stand ready to work with the Committee and others to develop solutions in response to problems brought to light during COVID-19 that will better prepare the nation for the next pandemic.”
– Emily Barson, United States of Care’s Executive Director.
USofCare’s written response focused on the following:
The Necessity of a Coordinated National Response to Fight a National Pandemic
- Threats to public health cannot be faced with fifty unique, uncoordinated strategies.
- The federal government is the only entity capable of establishing proactive boundaries and baselines to promote the general welfare, as our Constitution requires.
The Critical National Role of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Our nation’s first line of defense during a pandemic is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC could benefit from a greater examination of its mission and authorizing statutes to align their work to be as effective as possible.
Privacy & Protection of Personal Data
- Any legislation aimed at improving disease surveillance must establish clear privacy standards balancing the protection of people’s personal information while also providing public health professionals with usable information.
Eliminating & Addressing Disparities
- Unfortunately, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations and communities of color was largely predictable based on existing public health research. Agencies should make use of the data they already collect to proactively identify the populations at the highest risk in public health crises, and incorporate this information into future pandemic response strategies.
- Efforts to ensure access and inclusion for vulnerable populations and communities of color, especially in the areas of testing and treatment covered by Medicaid, must be flexible enough and conveniently located so people without transportation can be treated appropriately.
Development and Distribution of Treatments, Vaccines & Permanent Testing Infrastructure
- The price and ability to pay for necessary therapeutics should not impede people’s ability to receive treatment or a vaccine during a pandemic as a matter of national security.
- Congress should provide funding and direction for the federal government to put in place a permanent and coordinated system of the testing infrastructure. This would include training, continuing education, and requirements for health care providers, hospitals, and state and local public health departments.
Being Ready for an Outbreak 365 Days Per Year
- Federal agencies must update their disaster preparedness strategies to specifically include plans for exercising the authorities under Title I of the Defense Production Act (DPA).
- Congress should write legislation providing HHS with the funding to ensure the national stockpile not only effectively serves as a centralized repository supplementing the resources of states and localities, but is also actively monitored and maintained at all times.
Investment in our Public Health Infrastructure
- It is a matter of national security that the United States commit to prioritizing long-term public health efforts ranging from combating infectious diseases to addressing disparities in access to care.
Educating the Public About Public Health
- Congress should appropriate funding for a national public information campaign to educate those living in the United States about the critical nature of public health preparedness.
We thank the following members of our Board and Founder’s Council for their collaboration, expertise, and input:
- Richard Deem – Former Senior Vice President of Advocacy, American Medical Association
- John Driscoll – CEO, CareCentrix
- Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD, MPH, MPA – Founder & CEO, Grapevine Health
- Former Senator Bill Frist, MD
- Dr. Rebekah Gee, MD – Former Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health and current CEO of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division
- Dennis Heaphy – Co-Chair, Disability Advocates Advancing Our Healthcare Rights
- Elena Hung – President & Co-Founder, Little Lobbyists
- Dr. Dora Hughes, MD, MPH – Associate Research Professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University & Former Counselor for Science and Public Health to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
- Cara James, Ph.D. – Former Director of the Office of Minority Health, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and current President & CEO of Grantmakers in Health
- Mario Molina, MD – former CEO, Molina Healthcare & Dean, KGI School of Medicine
- Anand Parekh, MD, MPH, FACP – Chief Medical Advisor, Bipartisan Policy Center
- Caitlin Rivers, Ph.D. – Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security & Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- George Roberts, MHA – CEO of the Northeast Texas Public Health District and Board President of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
- Erin Rogus, MA – Policy Advisor to Senator Bill Frist, MD
- Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD – Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Crystal Watson, DrPH, MPH – Senior Scholar, Johns HopkinsCenter for Health Security & Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health