Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Congressman Josh Harder (CA-10) today led a bipartisan letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Director Alex Azar urging him to extend his declaration of a public health emergency concerning the Coronavirus Pandemic. The emergency declaration has expanded eligibility for patients to receive routine health care through telehealth and telephonic care, allowing vulnerable and high-risk patients to avoid in-person visits to hospitals and health centers where they could be exposed to the Coronavirus. The emergency declaration is set to expire July 25, even as cases are on the rise. The extension is needed to continue care for vulnerable, high-risk populations and to prevent them from unnecessary exposure as our communities continue on the path toward safely reopening.

“With the public health emergency declaration set to expire one month from today, access to telehealth care is in jeopardy,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, North Country patients have had access to increased telehealth services, so that non-COVID-19 related health concerns are not ignored. This is particularly important for my district, which is one of the largest constituencies of seniors in the country – the most vulnerable population after exposure to the virus. I urge Secretary Azar to extend the public health emergency declaration in the interest of public health.”

“Without expanded telehealth access, people from the Valley who live with chronic health conditions will be stuck between a rock and hard place – either, getting care in person and needlessly exposing themselves to a highly infectious disease, or having to forgo care,” said Congressman Harder. “This is a common sense step to keep the most vulnerable members of our community safe during this pandemic.”

“The public health emergency must be extended to ensure continued access to telehealth,” said D. Tucker Slingerland, MD, CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network. “As a federally-qualified health center that serves almost 100,000 patients in a rural region that is larger than the State of Connecticut, Hudson Headwaters has relied heavily on telehealth services to meet our patients’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly our most vulnerable patients like the elderly and the disabled.”

Find a copy of the letter here.