Advocacy Update

Read the Advocacy Update

January 26, 2021

In this Issue:

CAP Welcomes Release of National COVID-19 Response Plan

On January 21, President Joe Biden signed several executive orders to create a Pandemic Testing Board and address other issues concerning COVID-19 testing. The CAP applauded these actions as it engages with the new administration on pathologists' health care policy priorities. The Pandemic Test Board, which comprises of multiple federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be chaired by the COVID-19 Response Testing Coordinator. Additionally, President Biden released a National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, which the CAP also welcomed as a comprehensive plan that coordinates critical diagnostic testing.

The other executive orders aim to fund or support research into new treatments for COVID-19, collect and analyze data, and increase access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to vulnerable populations, including disadvantaged communities.

“The College of American Pathologists applauds the Biden administration’s efforts to improve patient access to COVID-19 tests as laboratories continue to face challenges obtaining the supplies they need to meet testing demands in their communities. While 2 million tests are being provided every day, surveys of laboratory directors have consistently reported that more testing could be performed but their labs are constrained by several limitations.” said CAP President Patrick Godbey, MD, FCAP, in statement on in response to the creation of a Pandemic Testing. “Further, there will be a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to advise the administration on how to expand access to testing, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine, to disadvantaged health populations. We must ensure that communities of color and vulnerable patient populations have equal access to tests, treatments, and therapeutics.”

The Pandemic Testing Board’s work will include increasing testing supplies and enhancing laboratory capacity to conduct testing. The Defense Product Act (DPA) was invoked to address these challenges. The CAP has long stated that the issue of testing supplies has hindered testing capacity, as the June 2020 CAP survey of laboratory directors confirmed that laboratories still faced substantial challenges in obtaining supplies necessary for COVID-19 testing.

“To defeat the current pandemic, the United States must take comprehensive actions that leverage all facets of our health care system, including diagnostic testing,” said Dr. Godbey. “The CAP appreciates the detail in the Biden administration’s seven-point plan to end the pandemic and bring the country back to a time when all children and teachers can attend school, restaurants can reopen to welcome diners, and families can safely gather for holidays. States must take comprehensive actions that leverage all facets of our health care system, including diagnostic testing.”

New Officials Set to Take Leadership Positions at Health Care Agencies

The White House announced a wave of new health care officials who will hold key positions at federal agencies for the Biden administration. Among them are former Wisconsin Health Secretary Andrea Palm, who will be deputy security of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Rachel Levine, MD, who was appointed to HHS's assistant secretary.

Many of President Biden’s top-level cabinet picks are awaiting confirmation in the Senate including HHS secretary-nominee Xavier Becerra. In the interim, Norris Cochran will serve as acting HHS secretary and Liz Richter will serve as acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). President Biden has not yet nominated an individual to serve as his CMS administrator.

In addition, Biden has tapped several others to help lead his COVID-19 response in recent weeks. In a press release from December 29, the administration announced that three new coordinator positions focusing on supply chain management, vaccinations, and testing:

  • Tim Manning, the supply chain management coordinator, will be focused the federal effort to ensure a reliable supply of PPE, vaccines, tests, and other resources to combat the pandemic.
  • Bechara Choucair, MD, will be the team’s vaccine coordinator and will be in charge of working with state and local authorities to distribute vaccines to the American people.
  • Carole Johnson, will serve as the testing coordinator, overseeing COVID-19 testing expansion with an emphasis on testing for schools, nursing homes, and other at-risk populations.

PathPAC Board Statement on Contributions in 2021

After a meeting of the PathPAC Board on January 20, the Board released the following statement regarding contributions in 2021:

In response to the recent mob violence at the US Capitol and the subsequent vote by 147 Members of Congress to decertify the results of the Electoral College, the PathPAC Board has made the decision to pause its contributions indefinitely to these Members. PathPAC has been and will continue to be bipartisan in its support for candidates; however, PathPAC believes that in addition to being good stewards of the donations from CAP members, PathPAC also must reflect the values of the CAP which is committed to the democratic process as provided for in the US Constitution, including the peaceful transfer of power, which has been observed for over 200 years.

HHS Delays Deadline To Report Relief Expenditures

Because Congress passed the much-needed COVID-19 relief package at the end of 2020, the HHS delayed the expenditure reporting deadline for providers who received more than $10,000 in relief to after February 15.

The legislation increased Provider Support Relief Fund Payments to $3 billion and ensured that 85% of the money allocated for the funds is allocated equitably. The HHS will delay the reporting deadline passed February 15, but has not released the new date. In the meantime, the department wants providers subject to the reporting requirements to sign up for the Reporting Portal, which launched on January 15.

The new COVID-19 relief package increased flexibility for physicians and providers by clarifying that eligible individuals may transfer all or any portion of the payments among subsidiary eligible health care providers of the parent organization. Additionally, Congress reverted to the original definition of lost revenue, allowing providers to move funds within a hospital system as needed.

In Response to Mississippi Pathologists, Mississippi Amends Autopsy Bill

In a key win for forensic pathology, the Mississippi Association of Pathologists (MAP) and the CAP convinced the Mississippi legislature to amend legislation to regulate the use of autopsy images. The amended legislation is based on the CAP policy on the Restrictions on the Use of Autopsy Materials, enacted by many other states nationwide. Both groups urged the Mississippi state legislature to regulate the use of autopsy images in conformance with CAP policy. The CAP’s strong partnerships with state pathology societies like the MAP strengthen advocacy efforts at the state level.

The Mississippi Senate Bill 2270, which regulates the use of autopsy images, was amended in response to the concerns expressed by the MAP and the CAP. The original bill would have prevented the use of autopsy photos without the decedent's family's consent. However, the long-standing CAP policy, Restrictions on the Use of Autopsy Materials, which outlines the use of autopsy materials for medical, scientific, and law enforcement teaching or training purposes, provided the decedent's identity effectively concealed.

Steven Bigler, MD, FCAP, President of the MAP, in collaboration with the CAP and the Mississippi State Medical Association, advocated using the CAP policy standard and amended the legislation before passing from the Senate judiciary committee on January 19, 2021.

The CAP Wants to Know How COVID-19 Impacted Your Practice

Help the CAP by completing a survey about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your practice. Data from this survey is critical informing CAP leaders, policymakers, and government regulators of the economic and personal challenges that COVID-19 presented to pathologists.

The CAP is surveying all board-certified pathologists from January 27 through February 9 to see the economic and testing impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey will measure the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on pathologists, their practices, and laboratories and informs our advocacy strategy. Additionally, the CAP wants to know if laboratories can meet the CMS 2-day testing turnaround time requirement and understand if laboratories can access adequate supplies and staffing for COVID-19 testing.

All board-certified pathologists, including CAP members, will receive an email on January 27 to participate in the survey. Participation is vital as the CAP can then fully understand the gravity of COVID-19 on laboratories and testing. All participants will receive a $5 Amazon gift card. The CAP recognizes the value of your time and privacy, and your information will be treated as confidential and will not be associated with you or with your practice/group.

Last Week to Take the January Advocacy News Quiz

It’s the last week to test your advocacy knowledge with this month’s news quiz. See how you compare against your fellow CAP members’ in the January News Quiz.

Take the January 2021 news quiz Arrow Right