The Texas Medical Association repeated its call for Gov. Greg Abbott to order limited liability protections for physicians and providers responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and looked to Congress for more financial assistance for struggling medical practices.
“Despite risks to their own health and safety, Texas’ physicians and health care providers are at the forefront caring for patients throughout this pandemic,” TMA President David C. Fleeger, MD, wrote to the governor. “Some are risking their financial livelihood to comply with orders to preserve PPE (personal protective equipment). We urge you to issue liability protection orders immediately to support us in our endeavors.”
The letter is a follow-up to a request TMA and six other health care organizations submitted to Governor Abbott on April 3. That letter asks the governor to issue executive orders that would:
- Proclaim that licensed physicians, providers, or facilities responding to the COVID-19 pandemic during the declared state of disaster are “not liable for an injury sustained by a claimant by reason of those services, or lack of services, regardless of how or under what circumstances or by what cause those injuries are sustained, unless it is established that such injury or death was caused by [their] reckless conduct, or intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct.” That would be in addition to any other liability protections in law.
- Order medical liability litigation resulting from COVID-19 “be abated to Sept. 1, 2020.”
Ten states have adopted similar liability protections, Dr. Fleeger wrote, and the American Medical Association (AMA) recently asked the National Governors Association to encourage all governors to do so.
In a separate letter today, Dr. Fleeger asked the Texas delegation in U.S. Congress to support legislation that would provide emergency support to pediatricians, obstetricians, and other primary care physicians whose “very fate ... hangs in the balance.” He pointed out that the recently concluded Medicare advance payment program helped a large number of American physicians but not the “obstetricians [who] deliver our kids [or the] pediatricians [who] care for them.”
He asked the Texas senators and representatives to:
- Direct the Trump Administration to “immediately distribute grants from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to pediatricians and obstetricians”; and
- Support increasing Medicaid payments to Medicare parity from now until two years following the end of the federal disaster declaration.
Dr. Fleeger also asked the senators and representatives to back legislation directing all insurance companies to “pay physicians for telemedicine at the in-person rate.” He pointed out that Governor Abbott earlier this month directed all state-regulated health plans to follow that policy.
But “more than 80% of commercial coverage is provided by companies regulated by federal ... laws and ... untouched by the governor’s disaster declaration,” Dr. Fleeger said. He asked them to support legislation to require payment parity for the federally regulated health plans, retroactive to April 1.
Today’s missive follows up on an April 15 letter to congressional leaders from the AMA, TMA, most national medical specialty society, and all state medical associations. That letter recommended a broad set of changes “to protect patient access to care by preserving the viability of physician practices as part of the nation’s essential health care system.”