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Internists Ask Payers to Do More to Support Physicians and Practices During COVID-19 Emergency

Washington, DC (March 30, 2020) —In a series of letters sent Friday and today the American College of Physicians (ACP) outlined additional steps that should be taken by insurance companies and others to support physicians and their practices during the COVID-19 emergency.   

“We are very concerned that there may not be sufficient support for physician practices to sustain them during this national emergency, when we need them more than ever,” said Robert McLean, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “Patients are being told to contact their primary care physicians with any concerns about the state of their health. However, we are hearing from many practices, in particular smaller primary care practices, they soon may not be able to make payroll without support and could even be forced to close their doors.”

In letters sent to leaders from United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and America’s Health Insurance Plans ACP made recommendations about what commercial insurance companies can be doing to help ensure that physician practices are able to continue treating patients.  ACP also sent letters to the National Governors Association and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and to the National Association of Medicaid Directors with similar recommendations about what their members can do to help physician practices.

The letters included appreciation for the steps that payers have already taken to facilitate telehealth services during the pandemic. They also made recommendations for further action that should be taken, including:

  • Paying for telephone only evaluation and management (E/M) services at the same rate as in-person visits for the duration of the national emergency.
  • Allowing physicians to waive co-pays for all types of telemedicine services.
  • Ensuring both established and new patients are covered for all types of telemedicine services.  

ACP also asked for further actions to be taken to ease the credentialing process during the national emergency.  This includes waiving fees associated with the credentialing process; establishing toll-free hotlines to enroll and receive temporary billing privileges; and temporarily postponing all revalidation efforts. 

The letters went on to spell out several other areas of concern for physicians during the pandemic. Some of those recommendation include asking for changes to payments for E/M codes be made by all insurers, not just Medicare. That they waive all prior authorizations for post-acute and hospital transfers, as well as consider waiving all prior authorization requirements. That deadlines be extended to report for value-based payment programs and that physicians and other clinicians participating in these plans be held harmless for 2020.

“We need to ensure that physicians are able to focus all of their attention right now on fighting COVID-19,” concluded Dr. McLean. “We appreciate what insurers have done so far to help reduce burdens on physicians, and we ask for these additional steps to help physicians and other health care professionals devote their time to patient care and not to worry about administrative tasks.”

Contact: Jackie Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org


About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.