Coronavirus COVID-19 Advocacy Archive
Things are changing rapidly. To keep you informed on the Academy's advocacy work on COVID-19, we're archiving news items and related content in case you missed these items on the Advocacy Hub.
Week of May11, 2020
Thousands of international physicians working on temporary visas are stuck in a green card backlog that should be remedied, the AAFP said in a May 13 letter(2 page PDF). The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would "strengthen our health care workforce in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future," the Academy wrote.
Week of May 4, 2020
The AAFP called on congressional leaders this week to set aside at least $20 billion to help relieve the devastating fiscal pressures now threatening primary care practices. The Academy's May 7 letter outlined several other actions urgently needed to safeguard U.S. health care during and after the COVID-19 emergency.
Work authorization has never been more crucial for physicians and other medical professionals enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the AAFP told lawmakers this week. The Academy and dozens of health and biomedical groups called for immediate regulatory or legislative action to retain DACA during the COVID-19 national emergency.
Week of April 27, 2020
Access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage must be expanded immediately, the Academy and 31 other organizations told congressional leaders in a recent letter. Only lawmakers’ immediate action to protect Americans will mitigate COVID-19’s critical strain on the social safety net, state budgets and U.S. health care, the AAFP warned.
The Academy this week notched another key win in its push for increased telehealth latitude during the COVID-19 emergency. CMS on April 30 announced(www.cms.gov) new, higher rates for telephone E/M services, with payment retroactive to March 1. The move mirrors specific guidance the Academy gave CMS in April(www.acponline.org).
It's past time for a lifeline to non-Medicare physicians, the Academy told HHS Secretary Alex Azar this week. Together with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the AAFP cautioned that immediate financial aid was imperative to prevent the closure of practices and a resulting threat to public health.
Week of April 13, 2020
Congress must make Medicaid a top priority in any further legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy and the Partnership for Medicaid told House and Senate leaders in an April 17 letter(3 page PDF). Lawmakers should also direct a 5.8% increase of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for Medicaid, raising it to 12%.
The AAFP and dozens of fellow medical organizations joined the AMA in advocating for direct financial support to frontline physicians in the next federal stimulus package addressing COVID-19. Aid and rules changes in previous recent legislation, the groups added, should be expanded and extended.
The pandemic reveals deep cracks in U.S. primary care — but brings an opportunity for federal bold solutions, the AAFP told Senate and House leaders in an April 13 letter. The Academy is also calling for Congress’ next COVID-19 legislation to deliver hazard pay and student debt relief, among other immediate considerations targeted to family physicians.
Week of April 6, 2020
In an April 7 letter, the Academy joined more than 100 fellow medical organizations in calling on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to deliver crucial financial relief to physicians battling COVID-19, citing the agency's broad power under the CARES Act(5 page PDF). "Specifically, we urge HHS to provide one month of revenue to each physician … enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid," the AAFP said.
The AAFP again voiced frontline physicians’ critical need for more personal protective equipment as they battle COVID-19. Together with its peers in the Council of Medical Specialty Societies in an April 2 statement, the Academy called on federal, state and local authorities to meet that need, improve distribution processes and safeguard health care workers’ right to speak out.
Week of March 30, 2020
The Academy's push for broad telehealth latitude in the fight against COVID-19 delivered a substantial win March 30, when CMS announced plans to temporarily relax a number of key regulations. The move positions family physicians to respond far more nimbly against the pandemic and includes other measures to relieve administrative burden and reinforce staffing.
Week of March 23, 2020
In a move the Academy called for on March 26, CMS announced an expansion of its accelerated and advance payment program to help Medicare participants fight coronavirus. Medicare will immediately start accepting and processing requests for these emergency funds.
On March 25, the AAFP called on CMS to further bolster COVID-19 telehealth care by making codes 99441, 99442 and 99443 covered Medicare benefits. Some 60% of U.S. seniors lack video-ready smartphones(www.pewresearch.org) but must have the option to consult their primary care physicians by telephone, the Academy said.
The AAFP and eight other groups are asking HHS to streamline a path for periodic interim payments to be made to all health care providers as physicians battle COVID-19. In a March 26 letter(3 page PDF), the Academy and its co-signatories urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to waive the notice and comment rulemaking requirement and immediately adjust PIP regulations.
Widespread closures of primary care practices “may be just four to six weeks away,” AAFP Senior Vice President Shawn Martin tells The Los Angeles Times in a story(www.latimes.com) headlined “Widening coronavirus crisis threatens to shutter doctors’ offices.” The report, which quotes two AAFP member physicians, underscores the need for immediate federal assistance for family medicine.
Week of March 16, 2020
Congress must address the fiscal crisis physicians now face due to COVID-19, the Academy and four other groups said in an urgent March 20 letter. The AAFP encouraged members to add their voices to this critical call to action via the Speak Out tool.
Days after the AAFP called on CMS to extend the reporting period for the 2019 Merit-based Incentive Payment System, the agency announced a later deadline: April 30. Clinicians not submitting data by then will qualify for the automatic "extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy" and receive a neutral payment adjustment for the 2021 MIPS payment year.
As Congress began deliberating further action to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, the Academy again stressed to lawmakers that family physicians working at the pandemic's front lines need immediate support. In a March 19 letter(4 page PDF), the AAFP outlined five high-priority policies to stabilize the primary care delivery system.
A third of family physicians now report that COVID-19 has reached their communities, the Academy told the White House Task Coronavirus Task Force in a March 18 meeting. The AAFP implored the administration to distribute COVID-19 test kits equitably, ramp up distribution of protective equipment to frontline physicians, and provide financial backing to increase telemedicine capacity.
The Academy’s Government Relations division has produced a summary of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, relief legislation likely to become law in the next 48 hours. Among the bill’s important elements: a temporary increase in Medicaid of 6.2 percentage points to states’ federal medical assistance percentage, with the requirement that states cover COVID-19 testing without cost sharing.
In a March 18 letter to CMS, the AAFP called on it to address COVID-19 by extending the 2019 Merit-based Incentive Payment System, among other actions. The AAFP also joined the National Association of ACOs in asking CMS(2 page PDF) to ease administrative and reporting burdens on clinicians in value-based models and ensure they have adequate access to capital.
In a March 18 statement, the Academy and five peer medical organizations urged the Senate to pass the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) and pushed for greater guidance and relief. In particular, the groups encouraged the administration to provide broad Medicaid support to states.
The AAFP has asked Congress to meet the COVID-19 emergency by requiring all health insurance plans to cover virtual care, with payment parity for telehealth visits. Family physicians must have maximum flexibility to treat their patients and aid their communities, the Academy told lawmakers in its March 17 statement.
As the federal government leads the national response to COVID-19, state and local health departments stand on the front lines. Several states are taking legislative action to mitigate the effects of the outbreak.
Week of March 9, 2020
The Academy is again urging Congress to factor frontline family physicians into the government's response to COVID-19. In a March 13 letter, the AAFP asked legislators to reauthorize and fund the Community Health Center and Teaching Health Center programs, establish Medicaid-to-Medicare payment parity, promote telemedicine and pass the Primary Care Patient Protection Act (H.R. 2774).