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Internists Tell Congress CARES Act Needs to Support Frontline Physicians in Providing Patient Care

Washington, DC (March 23, 2020) —In a letter sent to congressional leadership late Sunday the American College of Physicians (ACP) said that significant improvements need to be made to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in order to better support frontline physicians in providing patients with the best possible care.  

The letter began by calling attention to the alarming need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for physicians and other health care professionals.

“ACP welcomes the provisions in the bill to require that the PPE be included in the strategic national stockpile, and provide billions in funding to a Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (which may include funding for PPE).  However, the grim reality is that frontline health care workers are not able to get the PPE they need to protect themselves and their patients,” wrote Robert McLean, MD, MACP, in the letter.  “Nothing can be more urgent than rapidly increasing the supply and distribution of PPE.”

The letter then went on to outline four other areas of concern, including:

  • Requiring that that all payers, including self-insured plans, cover and pay for audio-only telephone consultations between physicians and their patients.  While some insurers may cover virtual visits, typically they do not cover traditional audio-only phone calls with patients, only video-enabled telehealth applications.
  • Providing dedicated and direct financial support to physicians and their practices through tax relief, no-interest loans, direct payments, payment for virtual visits including phone calls and other measures.  
  • Increasing Medicare and Medicaid payments for diagnosis, care and treatment of COVID-19 patients. Specifically, a final bill should mandate use of national disaster relief funding or other funding to reimburse physicians 110 percent of the Medicare rates for COVID-19-related care for uninsured persons, and require Medicaid pay parity with Medicare for physician services, particularly primary care.  
  • Expanding health insurance coverage.  ACP believes that final legislation should help and fully fund states in expanding Medicaid eligibility, require presumptive eligibility, and simplify enrollment, among other steps to expand coverage to the most vulnerable.

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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