Watch the AMA's daily COVID-19 update, with insights from AMA leaders and experts about the pandemic.
Featured topic and speakers
AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger speaks with AMA President-elect Susan R. Bailey, MD, Senior Vice President, Advocacy, Todd Askew and Senior Vice President, Health Solutions, Laurie McGraw on updates regarding COVID-19 including the latest developments with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and efforts to help physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn more at the AMA COVID-19 resource center.
Unger: Hello, this is the American Medical Association's COVID-19 update.
Today, we're talking about some of the latest developments with the CARES Act and efforts to help physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm joined today by Dr. Susan Bailey, AMA's president elect and an allergist and immunologist in Fort Worth, Texas. Todd Askew, AMA senior vice president of advocacy in Washington, DC. And Laurie McGraw, AMA's senior vice president of health solutions from Big Sky, Montana. I'm Todd Unger, AMA's chief experience officer in Chicago.
Todd, we're seeing the first disbursement from a planned $100 billion in financial relief for physicians and healthcare organizations, can you tell us more about that?
Askew: Sure Todd, thanks. This is a part of what we had advocated for along with the 130 state and national medical specialties, the American Hospital Association, and many others to provide emergency upfront funding, specifically for hospitals and physicians and other healthcare providers to deal both with the increased cost of fighting COVID-19, but also with the fact that so many people are staying away from other healthcare settings right now causing a real strain on practices and we're going to need to have those practices there.
What we saw late last week was a distribution of $30 billion to those providers who had previously billed Medicaid—I'm sorry, Medicare in 2019, using a formula that approximated about a month's worth of Medicare revenue for each of those physician practices.
It's only the beginning. There's $70 billion more in this fund that they are working to distribute. There's also talk about additional dedicated funding for physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to see us through this crisis and to keep the healthcare system strong when we emerge on the other side.
Unger: Dr. Bailey, any comments from you?
Dr. Bailey: Physician practices have really been put in a double bind. Many of them are seeing fewer patients, they've got less revenue, but on the other hand, they're being asked to shoulder very unique, unexpected expenses like staying in a hotel so they don't contaminate their families. The last thing we need is to lose physicians and other healthcare providers from the workforce right now.
This is an all hands on deck effort. And with the physical distancing, the restrictions on travel, stay-at-home, it really has huge implications on physician practices. I think it's important to emphasize that the relief that we got last week, and it was nice to see that check come into my account, it wasn't big, but it helps. Physicians need immediate help to keep their practices going so that we can maintain our health care for our patients.
Unger: Todd, any advice you can give physicians about how to navigate the process for obtaining that financial relief?
Askew: Well, the initial payment was automatic. I think a lot of people will have seen the payment made directly to the entity that was paid in 2019. There is additional guidance on this and other opportunities for some fiscal relief on the AMA website.
In the COVID resource center, there's a guide to fiscal relief for physician practices. And every day, we will see more clarification and tweaks and information about these programs coming out of the federal government and we'll continually update that information on the AMA site, so it'll be available whenever you need it.
Unger: Laurie, can you tell us some more information about the work that your team is doing to expedite updates on the CPT code front?
McGraw: Sure, Todd. I think Dr. Bailey said it correctly, we're in an all hands on deck situation, and in the area of testing, there has been a lot of changes.
So you may recall back in March, the CPT editorial panel convened an emergent meeting for the testing that was available at that time. That was molecular testing. Well, now, we've brought input from practicing physicians, commercial labs, the CDC.
Last Friday, two additional codes were made immediately available. These are intended to report when patients receive blood tests that detect COVID-19 antibodies. With these codes, they are now the industry standard for accurate reporting and tracking of blood tests performed specifically to detect antibodies associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Unger: Dr. Bailey?
Dr. Bailey: Having antibody testing readily available is going to be a tremendous help, and first of all, giving us a clearer picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 disease in our communities. But it's also, I think, going to be a very valuable tool in helping us let people know when it's safe to get back to work.
I know that as an immunologist, I'm planning on utilizing these as soon as I can. I can do a telemedicine visit, order the test, do another telemedicine visit to give that patient the results and let them know what their immune status is. I think it's going to be an important part of improving health outcomes, keeping physicians practices going, keep the economy going, and lower costs in the long run.
Unger: Laurie, one of the other things you were working on is in the arena of helping physicians looking to volunteer in other parts of the country. What is the AMA doing to help there?
McGraw: Yeah. Thanks, Todd. One more thing just back on—I'm sorry, back on the testing. I mean, I think you're right in pointing out. We are trying to produce guidance and guides and information that are really helpful to physicians and the healthcare system to remove barriers so that physicians and healthcare workers can take care of their patients.
So in addition to those codes on testing being available, the AMA also is producing guidance on how to use them, whether it's via telehealth, in the office, through mobile drive, drive-through testing sites. So those resources are also available. In the other area with volunteer physicians, there has been calls out in many of the hotspots across the nation for volunteer workforce and how to get those positions deployed as efficiently and effectively as possible.
McGraw: The AMA put out a volunteer resource guide that tells physicians where to go, how to connect with the appropriate state authority, state agencies. We are providing resources such as guidance, credentialing services, connection to the right authorities. We are updating these resources continuously because the rules and regulations are changing on a state by state basis and we will continue to provide the physician profiles to help expedite the verification of physicians gratis for the duration of this crisis.
Unger: Well, thank you very much. That's it for today's COVID-19 update. I want to thank my guests today, Dr. Susan Bailey, Todd Askew, and Laurie McGraw.
We'll be back tomorrow with another update. In the meantime, if you're looking for more resources on COVID-19, including the guide to financial relief that Todd referred to, or more information on CPT codes, please go to the AMA COVID-19 resource center at ama-assn.org/covid-19.
Thanks for joining us.