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Internists Support Call to Suspend Elective Medical Procedures, Ease Licensing Restrictions; Continue to Call on Government to Do More
Washington, DC (March 18, 2020) —The American College of Physicians (ACP) this afternoon supported the recommendations that the administration made in an earlier press conference for elective medical procedures be suspended and medical licensing restrictions to be eased.
“These are important steps in ensuring that physicians and other health care professionals are able to devote their time and resources to dealing with the rapidly spreading emergency created by COVID-19,” said Robert McLean, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “Additionally, keeping patients who would have been in health care facilities for elective procedures home, and away from potential exposures to the virus, can help us to slow the spread.”
Additionally, in letters to Congress and the administration, and communications to others ACP has been urging additional steps that can be taken to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that internal medicine physicians and others on the front lines can continue caring for patients.
In a letter to congressional leadership ACP sent recommendations about necessary provisions to include in any economic stimulus bills in Congress. The recommendations were centered on ensuring that physicians are able to sustain and ramp up capacity to test, diagnosis, treat and counsel patients; obtain necessary supplies including personal protection equipment; and maintain the financial viability of their practices.
“ACP has heard from many of its members, in large and small practices alike, that the economic viability of their practices is at risk because of increased expenses associated with COVID-19 and reduced revenue from cancellation of office visits and replacing them with virtual visits that often are not reimbursed by payers, or reimbursed at lower levels than face-to-face visits,” wrote Robert McLean, MD, MACP, in the letter to Congress. “Payment for all medically necessary telephone and video consults will allow physicians to convert face-to-face visits to virtual telephone consultations with patients, thereby freeing up capacity to see patients in the office who require immediate attention for testing, diagnosis, treatment and counseling related to COVID-19.”
In a separate letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), ACP detailed additional concerns related to remotely provided services. The letter noted ACP’s appreciation for the flexibility that the agency has granted to some telehealth services, but call for even more to be done. ACP noted the lack of smartphones among seniors, “making it much more challenging for this vulnerable population to be able to utilize more robust telehealth visits that require two-way audio and video service or even e-visits that utilize a patient portal from their home,” Dr. McLean wrote. “For such patients, providing coverage and payment for telephone consultations that do not require smartphone capabilities is essential.”
The letter went on to call for allowing all types of remotely provided services for both new and established patients; for physicians to be allowed to waive co-pays for telemedicine services; and for CMS to work with state Medicaid programs to use the full spectrum of telemedicine services.
ACP also joined with other frontline physician groups today to put forth a series of recommendations for steps that the administration, Congress, and the states can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
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.
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