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Internists Offer Recommendations for Federal Action to Support Physicians, Patients in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

Washington, DC (May 7, 2020) — The American College of Physicians today sent letters to Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to address the immediate need for additional legislation to sustain healthcare and economic needs as well as support physicians and their practices during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The letter to Congress outlined specific items of public policy priority and gave examples of how to fulfill each priority as well.

“We appreciate that Congress has enacted four major legislative packages to address this unprecedented public health crisis, which includes numerous programs to help physicians and their practices, begins to provide desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline physicians, nurses and other health care workers, increases health care capacity, and expands access to affordable testing and treatment,” wrote Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, President of ACP. “While these programs are beginning to make a positive difference for physicians and their patients, more still needs to be done.”

ACP recommended that Congress focus on the following seven priorities when drafting additional COVID-19 related legislation:

  • Increase funding for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) and ensure that a dedicated and substantial portion of it is prioritized to support physicians and their practices based on need, and expressly ensure that sufficient and direct funding is provided to make primary care practices whole for lost revenue and increased expenses related to COVID-19 through the end of the calendar year. This can be achieved by directing the Secretary of HHS to quickly and automatically disburse PRF funds to physicians and their practices in need.
  • Mandate restoration of the Medicare Advance Payment Program and make improvements to it to lengthen the pay-back period and lower the interest rate to zero.
  • Mandate that all payers pay for audio-only phone calls and telehealth at the same rate as in-person visits, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has done for Medicare.
  • Mandate Medicaid physician pay parity, especially for primary care physicians.
  • Support the physician workforce by enacting legislation to provide loan forgiveness for frontline medical students, residents, and physicians; and reauthorize the Conrad State 30 J-1 visa waiver program and provide a pathway to immigrant visas for International Medical Graduates (IMGs).
  • Ensure access to Medicaid by increasing the federal contribution.
  • Fund the public health capacity needed to partially and safely resume certain prioritized economic and social activities at a state and community level, consistent with ACP’s new guidance on Partial Resumption of Economic, Health Care and Other Activities While Mitigating COVID-19 Risk and Expanding System Capacity.

“Physicians and their practices should be a main concern for Congress during this COVID-19 health crisis,” added Dr. Fincher “As a cornerstone of care, offering them the much needed resources to be able to sustain their businesses as well as provide great care for their patients is imperative and would allow them to operate more successfully during the Coronavirus pandemic.”

In the letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, ACP applauded the agency’s decision to pay for audio-only phone calls between physicians and their patients at the same rate as in-person visits but asked the agency to take additional actions to support internists and their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic by resuming and making improvements in the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, creating an appeals process for the Provider Relief Fund, making changes to the Medicare Quality Reporting Program, and removing preauthorization requirements to reduce the regulatory burden on physicians.

Contact: Taneishia Bundy (202) 261-4523, tbundy@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.