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Internists Urge Enactment of Provisions in HEROES Act to Support Physicians and Patients, Call for Prioritizing Primary Care

Washington, DC (May 14, 2020) - In a letter sent this afternoon to leadership from the House of Representatives the American College of Physicians offered support for the many provisions of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that would support patients and physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also offered recommendations for additional policies to prioritize support for primary care to help practices from closing as well as other needed policies.

“ACP is pleased that the HEROES Act does so much to help physicians in caring for patients during this crisis,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “While we have recommendations for what more can be done, the provisions in the bill will go a long way in helping to better equip our physicians and our health care system to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ACP said that they support provisions of the legislation that:

  • Provide additional Provider Relief Fund emergency funding to help struggling physician practices keep their doors open by partially offsetting revenue losses and increased expenses relative to COVID-19;
  • Make improvements in the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program;
  • Make physicians eligible for hazard pay as essential frontline workers;
  • Support the COVID-19 response workforce by expediting visas for international medical graduates (IMGs) to enter the U.S. for training and patient care, permanently authorizing the Conrad 30 Program, and providing a pathway for IMGs and their families already in the U.S to obtain permanent residency status;
  • Expand coverage and increase federal funding for Medicaid; and,
  • Fund the infrastructure and health system capacity needed to rapidly expand testing and contact-tracing, thereby enabling economic, social and medical care activities to gradually resume on a prioritized basis while mitigating transmission and deaths from COVID-19.

The letter offered ACP’s ideas for additional polices to support patients and their physicians.  ACP called on Congress to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make a targeted allocation out of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to primary care physician practices in an amount sufficient to keep their doors open, similar to what has been done for rural hospitals and clinics. This targeted allocation should, when combined with the general allocations from the PRF, offset at least 80 percent of total revenue from all payers, including Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurers, from April 1 through the end of the calendar year.

The letter asked for clarification about hazard pay for frontline physicians and other support for the physician workforce. It also recommended additional measures that would forgive student loans for physicians on the frontlines of providing care to COVID-19 patients or helping the health care system cope with the pandemic.

“While physicians are experiencing increased expenses related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other changes in their offices to mitigate spread of COVID-19, they are most affected by lower revenue as a result of reduced patient volume, while hospitals and other ‘providers’ can more readily document increased expenses,” wrote Dr. Fincher in the letter. “ACP supports ensuring that both physicians and hospitals receive funding to cover lost revenue and increased expenses in a way that ensures a fair and appropriate distribution of funding.”

Read the detailed recommendations in the letter here

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.