WASHINGTON – On Monday, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) convened a virtual roundtable of local healthcare providers across the Granite State to learn about challenges they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic while also giving updates on possible help coming from the federal government.
Hassan opened the discussion with news of a three-year funding extension for local health centers in New Hampshire as part of Congress’ end-of-year budget appropriations. She also praised recent bipartisan efforts from Congress to help end the practice of surprise medical billing, which she said would provide an estimated $18 billion in savings.
Although participants in the roundtable shared cautious optimism the facilities’ ability to withstand the final months of the pandemic, concerns were also raised on a variety of fronts.
Kris McCracken, President and CEO, Amoskeag Health in Manchester, stated that her organization lost $2.5 million in the first nine months of the pandemic and now needs to find ways to make up for that revenue shortfall while also helping Amoskeag’s approximately 17,000 patients eventually obtain COVID-19 vaccines, cope with staffing shortfalls due to lack of childcare and quarantining as well as dealing with a high volume of questions from patients about the pandemic.
McCracken also said that Amoskeag is working to build trust in the COVID-19 vaccines with minority communities, given a history of skepticism toward medical professionals that has grown in communities of color due to mistreatment in the past.
Hassan noted that Congress also made efforts to combat skepticism in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout phase when pushing back against former President Donald Trump’s desires to release vaccines prior to Election Day in attempts to sideline scientific efficacy for political motives.
Other concerns raised by members of the panel included efforts by Anthem Blue Cross to eliminate coverage for audio-only telehealth doctor’s visits, patients putting off care due to fears of the pandemic and the need for sustainable funding.
Hassan stated that the Biden Administration is continuing to work with Congress to address healthcare infrastructure needs that have become more evident as a result of the pandemic. She also stressed the need to help healthcare workers who have become burnt out due to the pandemic also noted the re-introduction of bipartisan legislation that would help healthcare workers seek additional postgraduate education without leaving their positions.