The American College of Physicians (ACP) said in a letter sent to congressional leadership March 22, significant improvements need to be made to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in order to better support frontline physicians in providing patients with the best possible care.
The letter began by calling attention to the alarming need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for physicians and other healthcare professionals.
“ACP welcomes the provisions in the bill to require that the PPE be included in the strategic national stockpile, and provide billions in funding to a Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (which may include funding for PPE). However, the grim reality is that frontline health care workers are not able to get the PPE they need to protect themselves and their patients,” writes Robert McLean, MD, ACP president. “Nothing can be more urgent than rapidly increasing the supply and distribution of PPE.”
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The letter then went on to outline four other areas of concern, including:
- Requiring all payers, including self-insured plans, cover and pay for audio-only telephone consultations between physicians and their patients. While some insurers may cover virtual visits, typically they do not cover traditional audio-only phone calls with patients, only video-enabled telehealth applications.
- Providing dedicated and direct financial support to physicians and their practices through tax relief, no-interest loans, direct payments, payment for virtual visits including phone calls and other measures.
- Increasing Medicare and Medicaid payments for diagnosis, care and treatment of COVID-19 patients. Specifically, a final bill should mandate use of national disaster relief funding or other funding to reimburse physicians 110% of the Medicare rates for COVID-19-related care for uninsured persons, and require Medicaid pay parity with Medicare for physician services, particularly primary care.
- Expanding health insurance coverage. ACP believes that final legislation should help and fully fund states in expanding Medicaid eligibility, require presumptive eligibility, and simplify enrollment, among other steps to expand coverage to the most vulnerable.