Defense Production Act
On March 20th, President Trump stated he had invoked his emergency war powers under the Defense Production Act to direct private businesses to produce and distribute medical supplies in anticipation of a surge in demand. As of April 16th, it is our understanding that the President has utilized the act with General Electric, Ford, General Motors and Philips to produce more than 100,000 ventilators by mid-July.
Under the Act, private US companies can be compelled to produce medical ventilators, masks and other items deemed necessary for the national security of the country. The president can also impose wage and price controls, settle labor disputes and control consumer and real estate credit, among other authorities given by the law. We will continue to keep you updated as this situation progresses.
Pentagon and Veteran Affairs Assist
- The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved a request from the VA to waive a section of federal law that governs retired VA workers. The VA is now able to, and has, invited retired medical personnel to return to the VA and assist with the ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic. This invitation is open to doctors, nurses and other assistants previously employed by the VA as a healthcare worker who have since retired. The VA will discontinue offering nonurgent community care referrals to veterans during the coronavirus pandemic due to infection risks and concern over stressing the health system. Allowing veterans and their families to see private providers puts the veterans at risk of getting the illness while minimizing resources to fight the outbreak.
- VA has been preparing to offer states assistance through its little known “fourth mission,” which would allow coronavirus patients to receive care at the VA’s nationwide network of hospitals and health centers.
- At the beginning of April, VA had 13,000 acute care beds, and 1,800 of them are for Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
- The Pentagon is making 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators available to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
- Military hospital ships have been dispatched to the coasts of California and New York. Tent hospitals have been deployed for civilian use.
IMF Signs on to Guidance Letter on Avoiding Disability-Based Discrimination in Treatment Rationing for Coronavirus
- On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a Bulletin entitled “Civil Rights, HIPAA, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” stating “HHS is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency, and this guidance is designed to help health care providers meet that goal…Persons with disabilities…should not be put at the end of the line for health services during emergencies. Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism.” The Bulletin offers broad guidance on the obligations of states and health care providers to comply with federal disability rights laws in developing treatment rationing plans and administering care in the event of a shortage of medical equipment, hospital beds, or health care personnel. This document from organizations with expertise in federal disability rights laws provides a more detailed explanation of how the requirements set forth in the HHS Bulletin would apply and how states and health care providers can take steps to modify policies and practices to avoid disability discrimination.”
Cancer Groups Call On States To Protect Cancer Patients From Discrimination in COVID-19 Treatment Plans
A coalition of 19 cancer organizations today released a letter sent to all 50 governors and state health directors seeking assurance that any COVID-19 triage plans developed to prepare for the possibility of insufficient resources do not discriminate against cancer patients who are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal statutes.
“As states, cities, and individual hospitals confront and prepare for an unprecedented influx of Covid-19 patients, we are concerned by the development of triage plans, also known as crisis standard of care plans or pandemic plans, that may illegally discriminate against people with disabilities such as cancer,” the letters read. “We seek your assurance that any plan adopted in your state will comply with all applicable federal laws by neither denying nor disparately impacting cancer patients’ rights to receive potentially life-saving treatment due to their disability.”
The letters sent under the umbrella organization All Cancers Congress, which advocates for the approximately 17 million Americans living with cancer, remind state leaders that cancer is considered a disability under the ADA. They cite the March 28, 2020 bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights which advises that any treatment decisions “should be based on an individualized assessment of the patient and his or her circumstances, based on the best available objective medical evidence.”
The letter goes on to recommend the use of the Evaluation Framework for Crisis Standard of Care Plans developed by the Center for Public Representation, which provides six clear and concise questions to ask when evaluating triage plans and other allocation criteria, and how particular allocation criteria amount to discrimination or risk being discriminatory.
The full text of the letter can be found here.
For up-to-date information, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.