Coronavirus: Stimulus bill includes provisions for physicians

December 22, 2020
Keith A. Reynolds

The $900 billion compromise stimulus bill was passed very late Monday evening as part of a $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Help is on the way to the American public as Congress has passed a $900 billion COVID-19 coronavirus stimulus bill.

The stimulus was passed as part of a $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill required to keep the federal government open past midnight Dec. 22. It passed shortly before that deadline.

Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), says in a statement that the bill includes a $3 billion infusion into the Medicare physician fee schedule which will preclude cuts set to take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

"MGMA strongly supports delaying reinstatement of the 2 (percent) Medicare sequestration cuts, an arbitrary tax on medical practices," he says in the statement. "We appreciate Congress strengthening incentives for participation in value-based payment models by freezing the thresholds qualifying participants must achieve to realize financial and other benefits."

The details of the more than 5,000-page bill are not widely known yet, but the broad strokes of the compromise include $600 direct payments to taxpayers and a $300 increase to federal unemployment benefits.

The New York Times reported that the proposed bill includes $69 billion in funding for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and more than $22 billion for state-run testing, tracing, and mitigation programs.

Among the other provisions floated as being part of the bill is more than $284 billion in a revived Paycheck Protection Program which lapsed over the summer, the Times reports.

The bill also appears to include a ban on surprise medical billing forcing providers and insurers to settle on a fair price for services. That provision isn’t expected to go into effect in 2022, according to the Times.

Some have already criticized the bill due to its size. The CARES Act, passed at the onset of the pandemic in March included $2.2 trillion in relief spending including some specifically earmarked to healthcare.