Coronavirus: AMA, other groups urge further legislative relief for physicians

April 20, 2020

The open letter calls on legislators to supplement the CARES Act.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and other leading physician organizations have called on lawmakers to take additional steps to bring relief to doctors impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The call comes in an open letter to congressional leaders urging them to go further and supplement the CARES Act in order to support the viability of practices during the pandemic.

While the letter applauds actions taken as part of the CARES Act, it lays out a framework of further actions that congress should take to ensure practices can continue to serve the community.

When it comes to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, the letter advises that legislatures can do more to ensure the program truly benefits practices. Specifically, these actions include:

·      Postponing recoupment for these funds to 365 days after the advance repayment is issued rather than 120 days

·      Reduce the per-claim recoupment amount from 100 percent to 25 percent

·      Extend the repayment period for physician to at least two years

·      Waive any interest that accrues during the extended payment period

·      Give HHs authority to issue more than one advance payment

The letter notes that Medicare and Medicaid payments are not due for a positive payment update until 2026, as congress couldn’t have guessed that a global pandemic would hit, and requests such an update. It also requests:

·      Increasing Medicaid and TRICARE payment rates to assure parity with Medicare fee-for-service payments during the pandemic

·      Waiving budget neutrality for Medicare payment changes for evaluation and management service set to be implement Jan. 1,            2021

·      Extending sequestration relief through Dec. 31, 2021

The organizations also urge lawmakers to provide more direct financial support to physicians facing budget shortfalls due to guidelines urging the cancellation and rescheduling of non-essential services and procedures, small business loans, further coverage of telehealth services, student loan relief for resident physicians and students, and expansion of HHS’ authority to issue 1135 waivers.

The letter also calls for expanded liability protections for physicians who are treating COVID-19 patients.