Additional measures needed during COVID-19, internists say

April 16, 2020

Current measures are not enough to help physicians stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has written a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking for additional measures to be taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. The precautions were suggested to support both physicians and their practices during this time of uncertainty.       

“ACP recommends additional emergency actions that CMS should take as soon as possible,” writes wrote Robert McLean, MD, MACP, president of ACP in the letter. “We believe these actions will complement those taken to date by the Agency and will further enable physicians to provide necessary care to those suffering from COVID-19, as well as their broader patient populations.”

The ACPs main concerns are the extension of deadlines, allocation of funds, and exceptions made to current rules.

For example, the ACP asks that Medicare payment deadlines be extended by at least a year, stating that extra time would allow physicians additional flexibility. In addition, processing time for applicants must be decreased even further.

The letter also touched on issues concerning expensive prior authorizations and asked that requirements be waived during the current national emergency. Currently, prior authorizations can cost physicians anywhere $2,161 - $3,430 per full time employee.

“Those working on the front lines to address the COVID-19 pandemic need immediate relief from unnecessary administrative tasks that add cost to their practice and ultimately delay care,” McLean writes. 

The ACP also asked that direct supervision requirements change in order to cooperate with social distancing requirements. In order to do this, they recommend that fellows and residents temporarily be allowed to see patients without an attending physician present.

“We recognize that these measures are unprecedented, but we must take unprecedented actions necessary to ensure that we are able to soundly and swiftly defeat this virus,” McLean writes. “We continue to strongly recommend that CMS take additional emergency actions to assist physicians and other clinicians with the resources and burden reduction they need to be successful in treating this pandemic.”