May 21, 2020 03:02 pm News Staff – Legislation jump-starting CMS' Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment program for Medicare Part B participants would help stanch the financial hemorrhaging that COVID-19 has caused family physicians -- if Congress can pass it fast enough.
"This legislation is one important way that Congress can provide immediate financial relief to family physician practices that have been critically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic," said the May 20 letters.
The letter to the House was sent to U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., (recognized by the AAFP with a Champion of Primary Care award last year) and Ron Kind, D-Wis. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., received the other letter. Both were signed by Board Chair John Cullen, M.D., of Valdez, Alaska.
CMS' recent surprise announcement that it had ceased accepting AAP applications from Part B participants to "reevaluate" the program left many primary care practices in fiscal limbo.
The agency said it was suspending the program "in light of the $175 billion recently appropriated for health care provider relief payments," citing $100 billion allotted by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and $75 billion earmarked for the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. But as of May 2, more than $90 billion in AAP payments had gone to hospitals -- which also have received considerable relief from the CARES Act and PPP -- compared with just $8 billion for Part B participants. In all, most COVID-19 emergency relief has gone to hospitals.
Meanwhile, 42% of primary care clinicians reported last month that they'd had to lay off or furlough staff. The letter noted that the same survey found that 45% of primary care respondents were unsure whether they would have adequate funds to remain open another month.
"Stopping AAP has hindered primary care physicians' ability to maintain practice operations in the midst of this pandemic," the AAFP wrote. "Your legislation restoring the program for Part B providers, and extending and improving its repayment terms, would create a lifeline by enabling more vulnerable primary care practices to take advantage of the program."