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Health Law and Policy Amid Crisis: COVID-19 Response

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School’s (CHLPI) Health Law and Policy Clinic (HLPC) is working with other national organizations and community partners to identify and promote COVID-19-related policy flexibilities that should have a permanent place in the health care landscape, and to minimize harm to individuals as various pandemic-era policies unwind.

During the earlier stages of the pandemic, CHLPI played a leading role in policy advocacy efforts to ensure that the care and treatment needs of people with low incomes and people living with chronic conditions are met during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Our efforts ranged from promoting best practices for access to essential care, to ensuring a sound governmental public health response that addresses the social determinants of health and keeps people out of emergency rooms. Below is a sampling of CHLPI’s efforts, resources, and recommendations to help mitigate the risks that people face as a result of this public health crisis. 

National Health Care Policy During the Pandemic

CHLPI collaborated with other national organizations and on-the-ground partners to identify, analyze, and promote policy priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic that best served people who have low incomes and/or live with chronic conditions. These policy priorities included:

  • Planning for the unwinding of the Public Health Emergency
  • Ensuring access to medication
  • Promoting access to care through Medicaid
  • Fighting for hepatitis C (HCV) treatment
  • Amplifying LGBTQ+ resources
  • Monitoring state government response

Public Health Response to COVID-19 in Massachusetts

CHLPI was especially active in advocating for a sound and equitable public health response to COVID-19 in our home state of Massachusetts. Together with partner organizations such as the ACLU and as a member of the Massachusetts Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity—a coalition of organizations that came together to respond rapidly to policy priorities—CHLPI was a leading voice on issues including access to COVID-19 treatment, testing, and vaccination, protecting patient privacy, and tackling inequities.

Social Determinants of Health

CHLPI, through its Health Law Lab initiative, used advocacy and technical assistance activities to support social service organizations working to keep people safe and healthy at home during the COVID-19 emergency. In the context of nutrition and housing organizations, efforts included:

  • Assisting organizations with becoming designated as essential services in their communities, thus ensuring continued operations in the event of a stay-at-home order;
  • Monitoring the evolution of policies related to the availability of and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for organizations that are serving people in their homes;
  • Conducting rapid analysis of both federal and state legislation and policy developments that may provide funding opportunities for nutrition and housing organizations; 
  • Tracking how the federal government, states, and municipalities were addressing broader food access issues and identifying best practices for improved coordination throughout the social safety net; and
  • Raising awareness of the challenges nutrition and housing providers were facing.

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