March 14, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Advocacy
The California Medical Association (CMA) has been working closely with Governor Gavin Newsom and public health officials as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, CMA delivered a letter to Gov. Newsom with CMA’s recommendations for addressing the barriers that physicians are encountering during this public health emergency.
The letter calls for the Governor to issue an executive order to expedite and expand access to telehealth services, which can help physician practices manage screening and care while reducing potential exposure and continued spread of COVID-19. Physicians want to implement telehealth but face ongoing barriers to implementation, including uncertainty as to whether public and private health plans will pay for these services.
Consistent Messaging and Guidance
CMA told Gov. Newsom that physicians and their patients need coordinated and consistent messaging and guidance on the changing situation and how health care workers should respond. CMA further recommended a statewide, sustained public education campaign to help counter misinformation that contributes to panic.
Use of Droplet Precautions
Lack of consistent guidance regarding how COVID-19 is transmitted is generating uncertainty and concern from health care workers regarding whether their facility’s personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols are appropriate and strains the limited supply of protective equipment and spaces in health care facilities. CalOSHA’s determination that COVID-19 is an airborne infectious disease conflicts with guidance from the CDC that COVID-19 spreads via droplet transmission.
CMA is continuing to encourage the application of droplet precautions in health care settings and request that the state work with the CDC to clarify guidance that PPE protections for droplet transmission is the appropriate standard for protecting health care workers.
CMA supports efforts to quickly expand community testing to efficiently identify individuals who do and do not have COVID-19. However, until sufficient testing supplies are available, physicians need clear guidance on how limited testing supplies should be directed and which patients should be prioritized for testing.
CMA is also urging the state to direct public and private health plans to collaborate to facilitate standardization on payment and coding procedures for COVID-19 testing and to provide clear guidance to physicians on payment and coding related to testing.
Health Care Workers
CMA told Gov. Newsom that it is critical that the state provide clear guidance regarding how decisions about the quarantine and furlough of health care workers should be made. CMA believes that health care workers exposed to COVID-19 patients should self-monitor for symptoms and may continue to work if they are asymptomatic. This will help to ensure that the state health care workforce is not unnecessarily reduced during this epidemic and patients continue to have access to care.
CMA previously sent a letter to Gov. Newsom telling him that it was critically important that California immediately move from containment to a mitigation strategy to slow the spread of the virus, to reduce the surge on an already stressed health care system. You can see that letter here.
CMA will continue to work with Gov. Newsom and public health officials as California navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.
The California Medical Association (CMA) has set up a COVID-19 resource page, where you will find links to the latest news, research and developments on the COVID-19 outbreak for physicians and other health care providers.