Coronavirus: ACP calls for funds to keep primary care practices running

May 26, 2020

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the group says primary care physicians need the same help as rural hospitals.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make funds available to keep primary care practices afloat during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to a news release, the letter was sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar May 20 and calls for the agency to create a targeted allocation out of COVID-19 emergency funds to keep these practices open, similar to what HHS has done for rural hospitals.

“ACP has heard from many internal medicine specialists providing primary and comprehensive care to patients that they are just weeks away from closing their doors, due to drastic declines in patient volume,” Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president of ACP, says in the release. “Many small primary care practices, like mine, are struggling to make ends meet in this unprecedented public health emergency.”

The letter urges HHS to make allocations enough to offset 80 percent of revenue being lost due to the pandemic, when combined with previous and ongoing funds, from the Provider Relief Fund. It also calls for the allocation to cover additional costs incurred in order to purchase personal protective equipment or other supplies tied to the battle against COVID-19.

“Primary care practices throughout the United States have been devastated by this pandemic,” said Fincher. “A targeted allocation to practices and specialties-internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics-that principally provide primary and comprehensive care to patients is needed to ensure they can keep their doors open. Without this they may be forced to close or sell out to equity firms or large consolidated health care systems, driving up health care costs and reducing access to care.”

ACP is also asking the agency to provide primary care practices with a per patient, per month prospective payment to help transition from fee-for-service payments which the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the inherent problems of. The letter urges HHS to do whatever they could to expand programs and give opportunities to practices to move toward new payment models.