March 27, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Advocacy
The California Medical Association (CMA) on Thursday sent a letter to the California Congressional Delegation, urging Congress to take additional steps to sustain physician practices during this trying time so they are able to remain on the front lines serving patients.
While CMA is grateful for the work Congress has done thus far to address the needs of Californians and physicians confronting the coronavirus pandemic—most recently with the passage of the $4 trillion “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)— we are extremely concerned that there is not enough immediate and direct support to maintain the viability of physician practices during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
CARES Act Public Health and Social Service Emergency Fund provides a $100 billion infusion of direct financial assistance to health care providers for unreimbursed health care-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19.
CMA’s letter asks for Congress’ assistance with the implementation of the CARES Act in the following ways:
- Disperse the funding immediately in a way that is not administratively burdensome for physicians;
- Set aside a significant portion of the total funding for physicians;
- Prioritize funding to providers in the greatest need in the areas most impacted by the outbreak;
- Prioritize funding for distressed physician practices who have lost substantial revenue so that they can be available to care for patients during the surge.
CMA also strongly emphasized the urgent need for immediate deployment of personal protective equipment and testing kits with the appropriate supplies (media and swabs) and for them to be prioritized for health care workers and emergency responders in the nation’s hot zones.
CMA is urging Congress to take additional actions including:
- Requiring all payors to cover and pay for audio-only TELEPHONE consultations between physicians and patients. Telephone service payment must be the same as in-person payment rates during the COVID-19 emergency.
- Increase Medicare and Medicaid payments to physicians during the COVID-19 emergency. CMA recommends enhanced payments to cover the additional costs of treating patients with COVID-19, the additional costs of personal protective equipment, testing kits, and other related medical supplies, the additional costs related to staff sick and medical leave associated with higher exposure risks, and the downturn in revenues because physicians were asked to reduce non-essential services.
CMA continues to urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw the proposed Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR) that would cut state and federal Medicaid funding by as much as 50% in all 50 states. There is broad recognition that states will need Medicaid resources to fight the outbreak, particularly among the fragile elderly and disabled who are served by Medicaid. If this rule is implemented, state budgets will be devastated at a time when health care resources are needed more than ever.
For more information, view CMA’s letter here.