President Joe Biden spent more time on health care-related issues than any other topic in the State of the Union speech. One of those issues focused on ending the COVID Public Health Emergency this spring.
While some Republicans are calling to end the emergency status immediately, the Biden administration is planning to bring it to a close in May. In the address, President Biden said “COVID no longer controls our lives.”
Munson Healthcare says the end of the Public Health Emergency means some changes are coming.
“We’ve known that it’s going to be coming to an end. And we’ve been making sure that our providers and patients are ready for that that time. Thankfully, a lot of our COVID-19 hospitalizations have stabilized, and so we haven’t been utilizing all of the waivers that the public health emergency has afforded to Munson Healthcare,” says Gabe Schneider with Munson Government Relations. “We have seen some benefits from the public health emergency as well. One of those areas would be in flexibilities we’ve received for tele-health. Thankfully, Congress extended those provisions beyond the end of the public health emergency, so we will still be able to benefit from those provisions which impact about 10% of our visits come from tele-health within the eight hospital system.”
Ending the Public health emergency may lead to out-of-pocket expenses for tests, vaccines, and treatments. Schneider says patients should check with their insurance companies with questions about any changes.
The president also wants to accelerate progress to end cancer, saying it’s touched nearly every American family.
Last year he announced the so-called Cancer Moonshot, with the goal of cutting cancer death rates by at least half in 25 years, and improving the experience for those living with and surviving cancer. Now, President Biden is calling for more research and patient navigation support.
Munson Healthcare says it’s exciting to hear those priorities in the State of the Union address. Amy Peterson, the Munson Healthcare Director of Research and Sponsor Programs, says “we’re optimistic that it might make its way to rural areas, but we’re not a large academic institution by any means. So research is not our core focus like it would be at other organizations, specifically university hospitals.”
“Additional funding in that area would be really beneficial for not only Munson’s cancer center, but any rural health system,” Peterson says. “Increased research funding, even if it doesn’t come to us in any capacity, will benefit cancer patients across the country because it improves the available treatment options.”
“We have had a navigator program in place for several years now at the cancer center, and it is incredibly beneficial for patients, family members, helping them get through the system. ‘This is very scary. How do we navigate? How are we going to pay for this?’ All of those sorts of things. How do we make treatment decisions so our navigators help with that? We could definitely always use more assistance in that area.”
Peterson says Munson is part of a cancer research consortium, and that partnership allows them to provide access to over 100 cancer clinical trials for residents in northern Michigan.
You can read the White House “Fact Sheet” on Cancer, fentanyl, veteran suicide, and other health issues here.