April 07, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Advocacy Practice Management
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the California Medical Association (CMA) has been aggressively lobbying federal and state leaders to ensure physician practices can stay afloat amid the COVID-19 outbreak. While medical professionals are in more demand than ever amid the surge, for thousands of doctors across California – and across the country – the outbreak has meant the shuttering of doors, furloughing of employees and uncertainty about the future.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program, which allowed small businesses of less than 500 employees to apply for forgivable, zero-fee loans of up to $10 million to cover approximately two months of payroll and other operating expenses. Based on the crisis that all small businesses across the country are facing, we know that money was not enough. CMA has heard from many physicians that they have been frustrated with the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program that promised quick cash, but have left many people simply frustrated and without assistance.
Amid this continued uncertainty, indications are that Washington is looking to take additional action to get money to physicians. CMS Administrator Seema Verma, M.D., today announced $30 billion in grants that will be distributed with no strings attached to Medicare providers this week. Physicians that are already set up with direct deposit will see the money automatically deposited to their account, Dr. Verma said during today’s White House press briefing. For others there will be a simple registration for what she called "no strings attached" grants that can spent however physicians see fit.
In response to the surging demand for loans that has quickly overwhelmed the program, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has asked Congress to add another $250 billion to the $350 billion already appropriated for small businesses – including physician practices – by the end of the week. The Senate could move as early as Thursday to approve new legislation.
CMA also joined the American Medical Association in a letter to HHS Secretary Azar regarding the $100 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency fund created by the CARES Act. The fund is intended to provide financial assistance to Medicare and Medicaid-enrolled physician practices, hospitals, and other providers negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federation is urging Azar to automatically distribute a lump sum payment to physician practices immediately that equals one month of each individual physicians’ average lost revenue from Medicare and all other payors.
As Congress contemplates a fourth bill to respond to the public health and financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, CMA is aggressively seeking additional financial assistance for physicians.
In California , CMA has also asked Governor Gavin Newsom to require or incentivize health plans and insurers to provide supplemental financial assistance or stabilization grants for their network physicians that are financially distressed. CMA estimates that, statewide, up to 34% of Californians (more than 13 million people) could lose access to their physician absent financial assistance to maintain the financial viability of physician practices. Should California lose this critical piece of the health care infrastructure, health plans and insurers will be unable to maintain their physician networks and will be unable to meet the demand for medically necessary care that is building as the State's health care resources are currently focused on treatment of COVID-19 patients.
In addition, CMA continues to press Gov. Newsom’s administration to ask for a waiver from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) that would allow the state to repurpose some Medi-Cal funds for up to $500 million in physician retention payments.
For the latest information on the programs available to help your practice, you can check our financial toolkit, which will be updated as new information becomes available, or download our recent free webinar highlighting financial assistance available for physician practices.
Other good sources of information for small businesses struggling during this public health emergency include: