Coronavirus: ACP calls for HEROES Act enactment, prioritizing primary care

May 15, 2020

In a letter to congressional leaders, the ACP offered support on many provisions of the HEROES Act.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is urging congressional leaders to enact key parts of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in an effort to support physicians and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in a letter sent to congressional leaders, according to a news release.

The release also lays out additional steps the legislators can do to prioritize support for primary care practices which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

“ACP is pleased that the HEROES Act does so much to help physicians in caring for patients during this crisis,” Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president of ACP, says in the release. “While we have recommendations for what more can be done, the provisions in the bill will go a long way in helping to better equip our physicians and our health care system to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The provisions of the HEROES Act which ACP supports are:

·      Providing addition Provider Relief Fund emergency funding to help practices stay open by partially offsetting revenue losses and increased expenses due to the pandemic

·      Making improvements in the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program

·      Making physicians eligible for hazard pay

·      Supporting the COVID-19 response workforce by expediting visas for international medical graduates, permanently authorizing the Conrad 30 Program, and providing a path for international medical graduates and their families already in the U.S. to obtain permanent residency

·      Expanding coverage and increase federal funding for Medicaid

·      Funding the infrastructure and health system capacity to rapidly expand testing and contact tracing

The ACP also recommended that Congress look at additional measures such as directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make a targeted allocation out of the Provider Relief Fund to primary care physician practices like they have already done for rural hospitals and clinics. The targeted allocation should, when combined with the general allocations from the fund, offset at least 80 percent of total revenue from all payers from April 1 through the end of the calendar year, the release says.

ACP is also seeking clarification on hazard pay for frontline physicians and other support for the physician workforce. It recommends additional legislative steps to forgive frontline physician student loans, the release says.

“While physicians are experiencing increased expenses related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other changes in their offices to mitigate spread of COVID-19, they are most affected by lower revenue as a result of reduced patient volume, while hospitals and other ‘providers’ can more readily document increased expenses,” Fincher says. “ACP supports ensuring that both physicians and hospitals receive funding to cover lost revenue and increased expenses in a way that ensures a fair and appropriate distribution of funding.”