A handful of specialties – including family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, and other primary care specialties – are calling for targeted and urgent relief payments from the federal government, saying that they have been left out of distributions aimed at alleviating the financial fallout associated with the novel coronavirus.
The federal government has already distributed about $150 billion – through direct payments and advances on reimbursement – to clinicians, but, to date, the money has only been given to providers who bill Medicare, and not even all of those individuals have received payments.
“It is critical that frontline physicians who may not participate in Medicare fee-for-service, in whole or in part, including obstetrician/gynecologists, pediatricians, and family physicians, have the resources they need to continue providing essential health care to patients amid the pandemic and in the months to come,” said the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologiststo Health & Human Services (Secretary Alex Azar.
In particular, the organizations are concerned that no money has been distributed or earmarked for clinicians who serve Medicaid recipients.
“The organizations that signed that letter are the primary providers of care to the Medicaid population,” Shawn Martin, senior VP for the AAFP, said in an interview. That’s true even for family physicians.
“Typically, in an average family medicine practice, their Medicaid panel size is equal to if not greater than the Medicare panel size,” he said.
On April 23, Mr. Azar said HHS was working onfor providers who only take Medicaid, as well as for dentists and skilled nursing facilities. An HHS spokesperson confirmed that the agency still intends to provide money to those groups of providers and that the agency is committed to distributing funds quickly and with transparency.
Mr. Azar had also announced that the government would soon start distributing $20 billion in payments to Medicare providers, on top of the $30 billion that had already been handed out to clinicians on April 10 and 17.
That $50 billion came from the COVID-19–related $100 billion Provider Relief Fund, which was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed into law on March 27.
Additionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had distributed some $100 billion to providers who participated in Medicare Part A or B through the Medicare Advance Payment program, which is a deferred loan. The agency brought that program to a halt on April 27.
An additional $75 billion will now be available through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) as part of the third congressional COVID relief package, signed into law on April 24.
Mr. Martin said that the AAFP and other physician organizations have been talking with HHS about how to distribute money from that new pool of funds. “There’s been a lot of progress, but there hasn’t been any action,” he said, adding that the purpose of the joint letter to HHS “is to say it’s time for action.”