Physicians ask Congress for COVID-19 financial aid

March 23, 2020

'Practices are experiencing huge reductions in revenue,' physician organizations warn.

Physicians from five prominent healthcare organizations including the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) sent a letter on Mar. 20 urging Congress leaders Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Charles Schumer to address healthcare needs in the upcoming stimulus package.

Healthcare leaders say that they need additional funding to continue the care of patients during the COVID-19 epidemic, specifically, through tax-relief, no interest loans and other measures.  

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“Practices are experiencing huge reductions in revenue while still having to pay rent, meet payroll, and meet other expenses without patients coming into their practices,” the letter reads. “This is putting severe financial pressure on physicians and their practices, in all types of practice and in all specialties.”

In an effort to combat these challenges, physicians outlined these major areas they need the most assistance with:

  • Require all payers, including The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans, to provide coverage and payment for audio-only telehealth visits with patients, at the same level as in-person visits. While virtual telehealth visits may be covered in some cases by insurers, they typically are paid far less than in-person visits, and do not include traditional audio-only phone calls with patients, only video-enabled telehealth applications. Many patients, especially seniors, have access to phones but not video-enabled telehealth apps.

  • Provide dedicated and direct financial support to physicians and their practices on the front lines of testing, diagnosing, and treating patients at risk of COVID-19, recognizing the increased costs they are incurring in the care of such patients. These costs include acquiring personal protection equipment (PPE) and other supplies, even as they are experiencing reduced practice revenue. Some are even incurring the expense of temporarily relocating their residences to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

  • Provide dedicated financial support to all physicians and their practices who are experiencing adverse economic impact on their practices from suspending elective visits and procedures.

The letter asks for extra funding to be used to support their practices financially while they test and treat patients who have COVID-19. Additional funding will also be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), a shortage of which is a major concern to all providers.

According to a March 19 survey from MGMA, eighty-nine percent of physicians feel that they do not have enough personal protective equipment.

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Physicians say that if this lack of supplies continues, the United States will see an increase in cases of COVID-19.

The letter ends with the following: “The above steps, combined with other measures to make care affordable for patients at risk of COVID-19 are essential to slowing the spread of the virus, and supporting physicians as they honor their sacred obligation to provide care to patients in need, including doing no harm to patients by eliminating elective visits and procedures to minimize patient exposure to the virus.”