Matsui Calls on President Trump to Unlock Vital Tools For Treating Outbreak

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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2020 | George Hatamiya (916-201-5412) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06) sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump urging the President to issue a federal emergency declaration in response to the growing COVID-19 crisis.  

State Medicaid programs have flexibility over how they pay for telehealth services. California recently passed a state law that allows Medi-Cal services, including telehealth, to be reimbursed if the services were rendered during a declared state of emergency. However, the declared state of emergency must be made at the federal level in order to trigger the new state law.

Telehealth can improve access to care, speed diagnosis and treatment, and limit the risk of person-to-person spread of the virus. The use of telehealth is critical to the community-based health centers in California, who continue to provide vital primary health care services amidst this crisis. A federal emergency declaration will ensure that California’s health care providers have access to the full array of tools they need to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. President Trump needs to take meaningful action.

House Democrats are working to provide new emergency funding for the adequate treatment and prevention of coronavirus and expand testing protocols to protect public health.

Congresswoman Matsui is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Subcommittee on Health.

Text of the letter is below:


March 12, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to request that you issue a federal emergency declaration in response to the growing COVID-19 crisis. A federal emergency declaration will ensure California’s health care providers have access to the full array of tools they need to contain the outbreak.

California’s Medicaid State Plan currently prohibits health centers from delivering and billing for telehealth services. In the wake of recent natural disasters in the state, the California legislature passed AB-1494, which allows health centers to bill for services delivered through alternative care models, including telehealth, during declared statewide emergencies. While the Secretary of Health and Human Services has already declared a public health emergency, California law AB-1494 cannot fully take effect until the President issues a federal emergency declaration.

Community health centers in California provide health care services to one in three Medi-Cal recipients and one in six Californians. In my district, our non-profit community-based Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) WellSpace Health provides comprehensive health care services to more than 70,800 patients. Across Sacramento County, WellSpace Health serves 83,699 patients. As of the writing of this letter, there has been one confirmed death, 10 confirmed cases and one patient in recovery in Sacramento County.

Telehealth can improve access to care, speed diagnosis and treatment, and limit the risk of person-to-person spread of the virus. As WellSpace Health and community health centers across California continue to provide vital primary health care services while fighting this outbreak, I request you immediately declare a federal state of emergency to allow California providers to utilize innovative health care methods such as telehealth during this time of crisis.  

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