Capitol Correspondence - 03.02.21

Government Accountability Office Calls for Centralized COVID-19 Case Tracking

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The new administration has demonstrated a keen interest in learning more about how COVID-19 has spread in some communities (e.g., people of color, people with disabilities) more than others. Xavier Becerra, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), stated that COVID-19 data collection was one of his key priorities in his nomination hearing with the Senate Finance Committee. Likewise, ANCOR has heard that this will be a top priority for new appointees within the Administration for Community Living, an agency within HHS that funds many disability programs. ANCOR is becoming involved in these conversations to ensure the representation of providers who will be required to participate in data reporting. We flag this article by Politico Pulse so that our members are aware of the political climate in which we are operating.

“The Government Accountability Office is probing the federal government’s disparate and confusing methods of collecting, analyzing and publishing vital Covid-19 data, but health agencies aren’t eager to follow its recommendations,’ POLITICO’s Erin Banco reports.

The GAO is likely to recommend that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other major health agencies centralize their efforts to track the virus and its impact on Americans, Erin writes. This is worrying officials at HHS and CDC, who warn the shakeup could reduce the quality of the data by taking statistics and data experts off their normal beats and placing them on different teams.

But GAO sees the lack of coordination between health agencies as a major problem, and has flagged that their data — on everything from how the pandemic is affecting life expectancy to how new variants are spreading throughout the country — is incomplete and often inaccurate. The report is due in mid-March.”