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Pallone Floor Remarks in Opposition to Republican Bill to Immediately Terminate the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Response

Jan 31, 2023
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House floor today in opposition to H.R. 382, the Pandemic is Over Act: 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield myself such time as I may consume. 

I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 382, which would abruptly and irresponsibly end the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency virtually overnight. It would require this action immediately without providing patients, hospitals, providers, and states sufficient notice to safely unwind the numerous authorities, programs, and flexibilities that have been essential to protecting Americans throughout the pandemic. 

Last night, the Biden administration announced that the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency plans to be ended on May 11, 2023. This timeline provides health care providers and patients with the certainty and predictability needed to responsibly wind down our COVID-19 response programs.  

As a result of these successful programs as well as the historic investments made by Congress, millions of Americans have received free vaccines and tests, safe access to their doctors through telehealth appointments, and continuous health care coverage through programs such as Medicaid and CHIP.  

Unfortunately, Republicans are needlessly rushing forward today with a reckless plan that would jeopardize the health of millions of Americans by immediately ceasing these important response programs without advanced preparation. 

Mr. Speaker, a pandemic of this magnitude cannot be unwound overnight. We cannot flip a switch and make COVID-19 end. If H.R. 382 becomes law, it would have disastrous consequences. It would disrupt insurance coverage for millions of vulnerable Americans by allowing states to immediately start kicking people off their health care coverage, without any protections. This is deeply irresponsible and dangerous.

Americans would also immediately begin paying out-of-pocket for COVID-19 testing and hospitals would see an immediate payment cut of 20 percent for Medicare patients with COVID-19. In addition, important waivers and flexibilities—including certain telemedicine flexibilities—that providers and patients have relied on for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic would be terminated immediately as well.

This legislation would also result in the elimination of vital tools for tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and other residential facilities.  

And it impacts our veterans—ending VA clinicians’ ability to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth. This would severely impact many veterans’ access to medications they need to manage chronic pain, complex mental health conditions, and substance use disorder. The legislation also threatens the progress the VA has made in ending veteran homelessness. 

And finally, it would abruptly end flexibilities for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP that would impact many Americans struggling to put food on their tables – particularly for those having trouble finding work and low-income college students.

Now Republicans began their House majority with chaos and confusion earlier this month, and this bill continues that chaos and confusion, but this time it will hurt millions of Americans directly. That’s simply not right.    

Responsibly transitioning to the post-emergency future requires careful planning and coordination with public health officials and policymakers. I applaud the Biden administration for properly guiding the nation to a safe transition as we unwind these programs without endangering access to care and treatment for Americans. 

Unfortunately, Republicans are rushing to recklessly and dangerously eliminate all of these protections immediately and without warning. It is the height of irresponsibility and for that reason, I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose this bill.  

Thank you, I reserve the balance of my time.