The Texas Medical Association, American Medical Association, and numerous other medical societies are calling on congressional leaders to include provisions in the pending coronavirus stimulus legislation that will “sustain physicians and their practices” as they struggle to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Specifically, the legislation should support and sustain physicians and their practices during this unprecedented national emergency through tax relief, no-interest loans, direct payments, payment for virtual visits including phone calls, and other measures,” the groups said in a letter delivered Friday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), and the House and Senate minority leaders. Originally drafted by AMA and four national specialty societies, the letter is now being joined by TMA and many others around the country.
Senator McConnell introduced the stimulus bill on Thursday with the hopes of passing it out of the Senate and over to the House of Representatives early this week. News reports indicated that Senate leaders from both parties were negotiating the details over the weekend.
The medical societies asked congressional leaders to make sure the legislation will:
- “Require all payers, including ERISA (federally regulated) plans, to provide coverage and payment for audio-only telehealth visits with patients, at the same level as in-person visits.
- “Provide dedicated and direct financial support to physicians and their practices on the front lines of testing, diagnosing, and treating patients at risk of COVID-19, recognizing the increased costs they are incurring in the care of such patients.
- “Provide dedicated financial support to all physicians and their practices who are experiencing adverse economic impact on their practices from suspending elective visits and procedures.”
The groups also asked that Congress “take all possible actions to ensure that every physician, and every health care worker, has access to critically needed” personal protection equipment (PPE).
The letter notes that physicians are following directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities to suspend elective in-person visits and procedures, replacing them where possible with virtual visits.
“Practices are experiencing huge reductions in revenue while still having to pay rent, meet payroll, and meet other expenses without patients coming into their practices,” the groups said. “This is putting severe financial pressure on physicians and their practices.”
On Saturday, AMA, the American Hospital Association, and American Nurses Association sent a letter to President Donald Trump, asking him to use authority under his March 18 emergency declaration to address the critical lack of personal protection equipment.
“America’s hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses urge you to immediately use the [Defense Production Act] to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need,” they wrote. “As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country, these supplies are urgently needed to care for our patients and communities.”
To stay up to date on the clinical, practice management, and advocacy sides of the crisis, visit the TMA COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.