Washington (CNN) — President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the “rapid increase in illness” from the H1N1 influenza virus.
“The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities,” Obama said in a statement.
“Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response.”
The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.
Calling the emergency declaration “an important tool in our kit going forward,” one administration official called Obama’s action a “proactive measure that’s not in response to any new development.” Another administration official said the move is “not tied to the current case count” and “gives the federal government more power to help states” by lifting bureaucratic requirements — both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it’s most needed.
The officials didn’t want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
Obama’s action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements” to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.
Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children’s Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.
Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Face Forward Comments:
According to the the news release, this will only impact government managed health care services like Medicare, Meicade, and Children’s Health Insurance Programs. I am interested in the way that this has been worded. When Kathleen Sebelius said, “to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements”, it does make one wonder what those certain requirements are.
I read through the CDC website and could not confirm the numbers that CNN is reporting. Certainly nothing to indicate that millions have been infected. At best, there have been a large number of cases of people with Flu like symptoms, which is running just a bit above normal. Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization said, “On present evidence, the overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery, often in the absence of any form of medical treatment.”
Again, we need to watch this story closely and try to get a better understanding why a national emergency has been called by Mr. Obama and see what the implications are.