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Internists Call on HHS to Make a Targeted Allocation of Funds to Keep Primary Care Practices from Closing

Washington, DC (May 20, 2020) In a letter sent last night to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the American College of Physicians (ACP) called for the agency to create a targeted allocation out of COVID-19 emergency funds to keep primary care practices from closing their doors, similar to what the agency has done for rural hospitals.

“ACP has heard from many internal medicine specialists providing primary and comprehensive care to patients that they are just weeks away from closing their doors, due to drastic declines in patient volume,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “Many small primary care practices, like mine, are struggling to make ends meet in this unprecedented public health emergency.”

In the letter to Secretary of HHS, Alex Azar, ACP urged HHS to make a targeted allocation to primary care practices out of the Provider Relief Fund. ACP called for the allocation to be enough to offset 80 percent of the revenue being lost from all payers when it is combined with previous and ongoing funds that have been made available to practices. They also called for the allocation to cover additional costs incurred to purchase personal protective equipment or other supplies to deal with COVID-19. ACP noted that HHS made a similar targeted allocation to rural hospitals to recognize the financial pressure they are under, similar to that being experienced by primary care physicians and their practices nationwide.

“Primary care practices throughout the United States have been devastated by this pandemic,” said Dr. Fincher. “A targeted allocation to practices and specialties—internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics—that principally provide primary and comprehensive care to patients is needed to ensure they can keep their doors open. Without this they may be forced to close or sell out to equity firms or large consolidated health care systems, driving up health care costs and reducing access to care.”

ACP also called on HHS to provide primary care practices with a per patient, per month prospective payment to help them transition away from fee-for-service payments. In the letter, Dr. Fincher noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of the inherent problems with fee-for-service reimbursements and urged HHS to do what they could to expand programs and give opportunities to practices to move toward new payment models.

“Internal medicine specialists and other primary care physicians have an essential role in delivering primary, preventive and comprehensive care not only to patients with symptoms or diagnoses of COVID-19, but also to patients with other underlying medical conditions, including medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes that put them at greater risk of mortality from COVID-19,” continued Dr. Fincher. “Many studies have shown that the availability of primary care in a community is associated with reduced preventable mortality and lower costs of care, yet recent surveys suggest that many will soon close without additional support.  They must be supported.”

Read the detailed recommendations in the letter.

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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.

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