Eligible physicians now have until Sept. 13 to apply for up to 2% of total annual revenues to help offset increased expenses and lost revenues resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency. Physicians who primarily care for patients with Medicaid or CHIP coverage may be eligible. In response to AMA advocacy, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fixed an eligibility problem that had previously excluded physicians who had received an automatic disbursement from the Provider Relief Fund earlier this year because they see a few Medicare beneficiaries, even if those physicians had returned the disbursement. Provider Relief Fund payments are grants, not loans, and do not need to be repaid. Find more information about eligibility and terms and conditions for use.
HHS extended the previous deadline, which was Aug. 28. While the additional time was appreciated, the AMA is urging HHS to meaningfully extend the deadline and keep open the application portal so physicians have sufficient time to apply for this critical funding. Physicians are focused on continuing to care for their patients during this unprecedented public health emergency and need more time to determine eligibility and submit their applications.
A new draft health data privacy framework to which the AMA contributed is now available for public comment. The framework is part of a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and led by the eHealth Initiative and the Center for Democracy and Technology. It is meant to serve as a stepping-stone to federal privacy legislation, rather than as a replacement for it or attempt to avoid it. The AMA is a member of the project's Steering Committee along with a broad range of other organizations. Since early 2020 when the project commenced, the AMA has participated in workgroups focused on creating additional privacy protections for health information exchanged outside of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA only protects information created by and shared among covered entities like payers, hospitals and physicians. This work furthers AMA's advocacy seeking to ensure that as health information is shared outside of the health care system, patients have a clear understanding and meaningful controls over the use and sharing of their data. Above all, patients must feel confident that their health information will remain private. The framework is organized by Substance and Structure. The Substance and Structure portions together describe the when, what, why and how data may be shared by entities participating in a voluntary program of this type. Several AMA Privacy Principles are reflected in the framework. There is also focus on allowing legitimate uses of health data (e.g., research and public health), and considerations around data use for algorithmic tools, such as augmented intelligence and machine learning. This proposal is unique among other privacy frameworks and codes of conduct in that its scope includes a broad range of data and includes vital enforcement, onboarding and auditing elements.