The Texas Medical Association is urging the Texas delegation in Congress to support a massive COVID-19 federal relief package that would help physicians who are struggling financially because of the pandemic.
In a letter today, TMA President Diana L. Fite, MD, called on the 34 U.S. House members from Texas and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to work to ensure both legislative houses pass a final bill that protects physicians and patients. The bill, known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, passed the House last week. It has stalled in the Senate, according to reports.
“We believe that without compromise and bipartisan support it will never be considered in the Senate. And we know that a number of additional provisions, including targeted liability relief, are high on the Senate’s list of considerations,” Dr. Fite’s letter said. “We ask you to come together in support of a final bill that will help serve those with COVID-19 and those whose coverage is being displaced. We ask you to support a final bill that will help physicians keep our practices open to care for our patients. And we ask you to support a final bill that will allow our patients to receive the care they need for the conditions they have – COVID-19-related or not.”
The $3 trillion bill “contains many helpful health care financing elements to provide stability – even viability – for physician practices and to promote better public health,” she wrote.
TMA supports several aspects of the bill, including:
- Additional funding for the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund;
- Reducing the interest rate to 1% for physicians and health care professionals who have received financial assistance through the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Program;
- Expanding the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program;
- Authorizing $2 billion for a temporary expansion of the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) to partially subsidize broadband service for its physicians and providers;
- COBRA subsidies for workers who have lost jobs but need to continue with private health insurance;
- Increasing the Federal Matching Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid funding to the states by 14 percentage points through June 30, 2021;
- Provisions related to student educational debt relief, support for COVID-19 contact tracing, and business interruption credit for the self-employed; and
- Broad financial support for states whose budgets have been compromised by emergency COVID-19 spending.
The American Medical Association outlined many of the bill’s other medicine-friendly provisions in a letter to congressional leaders it sent last week.
Many Texas physicians have reported significant financial hardships caused by decreased patient visits related to COVID-19.
Twenty-six percent of Texas physicians who responded to a TMA survey said practice revenue has decreased between 76% and 100% because of the pandemic. Another 37% have lost between 51% and 75%, and 30% have seen revenue drop by half.
“TMA’s goal is simply to help ensure that physicians will have the help and the tools we need to meet the demands of this crisis and the ongoing medical needs of our patients,” Dr. Fite’s letter said.
To help you make informed decisions for your practice during the pandemic, TMA has published a Practice Viability Toolkit with up-to-date information and resources.
You can find the toolkit and other tools on the practice viability section of the TMA COVID-19 Resource Center.