COVID-19: American College of Physicians offers recommendations to keep pandemic flexibilities

Jun 12, 2020

In letters to several major health insurers and health insurance associations in the United States, the American College of Physicians suggested recommendations about how to keep the new COVID-19 flexibilities in place after the period of the public health emergency has ended. 

In a series of letters to several major health insurers and health insurance associations in the United States, the American College of Physicians (ACP) suggested recommendations about how to keep the new COVID-19 flexibilities in place after the period of the public health emergency has ended.

The letters were sent to the presidents and CEOs of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, UnitedHealth Group, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and America’s Health Insurance Plans.

“If private payers do not join with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide physician practices with the critical support they need in this unprecedented crisis, hundreds if not thousands of practices across the country may be at real financial risk of closing, leaving a critical shortage of healthcare services at a time we can least afford it,” wrote Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP.

Flexibilities set to expire

According to Fincher, many of the flexibilities and policy changes are due to expire at the conclusion of the PHE, when patients and physician practices would be expected to revert back to primarily face-to-face services without any type of risk-based assessment necessary for gradually reopening medical practices and health systems to care for non-COVID and non-acute patients.

The policies and waivers that ACP cited that should remain in effect include:

  • Pay Parity for Audio-Only and Telehealth Services

  • Geographical Site Restriction Waivers

  • Telehealth Cost-Sharing Waivers

  • Flexibilities in Direct Supervision by Physicians at Teaching Hospitals

  • Revised Policies for Remote Patient Monitoring Services

  • Interstate Licensure Flexibility for Telehealth and Promotion of State-Level Action

  • Facility Fee Payment for Provider-based Departments

Fincher said in the letter that the changes will enable physicians and their care teams to adapt to the new environment and deliver patients the care they need in a manner that helps to protect their safety, as well as those around them.

“Practices will not recover from this crisis overnight,” she wrote, At a minimum, Fincher said these changes should extend at least through the end of 2021, or until such a time when effective vaccines and treatments are widely available, with an option to extend further based on the experiences of patients and physicians.

“The College believes that the patient care and revenue opportunities afforded by telehealth functionality will continue to play a significant role within the U.S. healthcare system and care delivery models, even after the PHE is lifted,” Fincher concluded.

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