WATCH: Bustos: “Is this a pandemic?”
Redfield: “This is clearly a massive global outbreak.”
WASHINGTON – Today, in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) fought for families facing the growing Coronavirus threat as she questioned CDC Director Robert Redfield about how the virus could increase provider shortages, particularly in rural areas.
“Communities throughout America are struggling with provider shortages and the Coronavirus outbreak risks exacerbating this already growing issue,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Americans deserve a strong advocate to make sure local providers are prepared to face this threat head-on. As the number of cases in our country rises, I’ll continue to fight for families and their health care needs.”
Citing areas in Northwest and Central Illinois where patient-provider ratios are nearly 7,000 to 1, Congresswoman Bustos raised concerns over the impact that the virus could have on small towns and rural America if providers are forced to go into quarantine.
In response to the Coronavirus, Congresswoman Bustos’ office has reached out to every County Health Department and hospital in the Illinois 17th Congressional District, as well as a number of clinics. One recurring issue raised by providers has been the need to build a stockpile of medical supplies and equipment, in order to ensure adequate available resources. Congresswoman Bustos questioned Director Redfield on whether a plan has been established to ensure that providers have the medical supplies and equipment they need.
Last week, an $8.3 billion Coronavirus emergency funding package was passed by Congress and signed into law. The bill includes funding for vaccine development, support for state and local governments and assistance for businesses effected by the coronavirus, as well as “fair and reasonable” price protections for vaccines and diagnostics. In order to allow Medicaid providers to deliver telehealth services to patients around the country, it also includes a waiver on certain Medicare telehealth restrictions.
The funding package includes:
- Small Business Disaster Loans –$1 billion in loan subsidies to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and nonprofit organizations impacted by coronavirus.
- Support for State and Local Health Department – $2.2 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
- Support for Vaccine and Diagnostic Development – More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus.
- Funding for Medical Supplies – $500 million for the procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies.
- Support for Rural Health Clinics – $100 million for health services through Community Health Centers, which will support smaller health clinics across the country in under-served urban and rural areas.
Last month, Congresswoman Bustos questioned Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II on the Administration’s efforts to prepare local providers for the coronavirus and address the issue of health care provider shortages across rural America.
Last week, the Congresswoman pushed Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie to ensure the VA is coordinating with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make sure veterans are educated about preventing the coronavirus and how the VA would respond in case there was an outbreak among veterans.
Congresswoman Bustos is also a sponsor of the bipartisan, bicameral Rural America Health Corps Act, which would help address workforce shortages in rural health care.