Ernst Urges Feds to Protect Seniors, Provide Safe Settings for Treatments Amid COVID-19

The Iowa senator is calling for federal health agencies to protect Iowa’s Medicare beneficiaries from high-risk settings and ensure safe access to care as we continue to work to combat COVID-19.

RED OAK, Iowa – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is joining her Democratic and Republican colleagues in calling on two federal health agencies to close any remaining gaps in health care coverage for Iowa’s seniors, and to protect Medicare beneficiaries from high-risk settings by ensuring access to Part B medications in the home setting during COVID-19.

In a letter to CMS and Health and Human Services (HHS), Ernst writes in part: “We ask that, as you engage with patient advocates, providers, and other stakeholders, you seek out opportunities to further close remaining gaps and, as much as possible, pursue solutions that provide for continuity and consistency in care. These solutions must ensure beneficiary access to Part B drugs, provide appropriate payment for these drugs, and sufficiently reimburse for administration services rendered when provided in the home setting.”

Ernst goes on to say: “As reports of current and impending practice closures, capacity shortages, and infections contracted at healthcare facilities continue to circulate, it is vital that we act now to ensure that all Americans, particularly those at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, can receive the care and medications that they need in the safest possible setting. For a growing number of beneficiaries, that setting is the home.”

Senator Ernst has been fighting for Iowa’s seniors throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, including calling for bipartisan action to crackdown on scammers who are targeting Iowa seniors. In addition, she called on the IRS to automatically qualify seniors for the direct payments – and they have done so. She also helped secure a number of important relief measures for seniors in the three bipartisan packages Congress passed and that are now law, including:

  • Broadly expanded Medicare’s telehealth services, so seniors can access more care and health services from home.
  • Included free diagnostic COVID-19 testing and free coverage of a future COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Provided additional funding for Aging and Disability Services Programs, which supports senior nutrition, home-delivered meals, community-based services, and family caregivers.
  • Required Medicare Part D plans to provide up to a 90-day supply of prescription medication if a senior requests this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, Ernst held a telephone town hall recently and heard from many of Iowa’s seniors. Ernst was joined on the call by the state director of AARP Iowa, Brad Anderson, and the dean of the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, Dr. Brooks Jackson. 

Background on Ernst’s efforts to combat COVID-19:

Senator Ernst has fought to deliver relief to all Iowans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of her efforts:

  • Delivered major wins for Iowa’s workers, employers, health care industry, and more in the bipartisan Phase 3 package.
  • Supported  the “Phase 1” bipartisan package to provide additional resources to federal, state and local authorities.
  • Helped pass the “Phase 2” bill to provide paid sick leave, free COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and increased support for nutrition for seniors and children.
  • Called for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Urged the Senate to prioritize relief for hospitals, community health centers, and workers on the front lines.
  • Announced a proposal to immediately redirect the over $350M in the Presidential Campaign Election Fund to be used to purchase specialized face masks and personal protective equipment.
  • Asked the State Department to immediately act to get Iowans stranded abroad back home.
  • Sought tariff relief for Iowa’s businesses by calling on Treasury to defer all tariffs during the pandemic.
  • Took questions from Iowans in Dubuque and Siouxland areas on COVID-19 relief.
  • Answered questions from Iowans in Quad Cities area on COVID-19 relief.
  • Held a telephone town hall with thousands of Iowans to help answer some questions and hear directly from folks.
  • Hosted another telephone town hall with Iowa’s seniors and elderly community.
  • Participated in discussions at the State Emergency Operations Center with Governor Kim Reynolds.
  • Joined Governor Reynolds at her press conference to give an update on federal relief efforts.
  • Discussed the need to work together – at federal, state, and local level – to tackle COVID-19.
  • Published a column on everyone doing their part to protect seniors and fellow Iowans from COVID-19.

For additional information for Iowans on COVID-19, you can visit Senator Ernst’s website, which includes resources for families and individualssmall businesses, and seniors.

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