AMA’s Harris calls for science to lead fight

The American Medical Association, along with more than 100 other physician organizations, sent a demand letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar, asking for immediate financial assistance for healthcare personnel working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Specifically, we urge HHS to provide one month of revenue to each physician (MD or DO), nurse practitioner, and physician assistant enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid to account for financial losses and non-reimbursable expenses” the letter stated. “HHS should use an individual’s average monthly payment amount from October-December 2019, which has been provided to the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs), as the basis for determining pre-pandemic monthly revenue. For most specialties, Medicare patients account for 35% of all patients, so to extrapolate to all patients, HHS should use three times the October-December 2019 average as the basis for issuing a payment. Certain specialties have fewer Medicare patients and should be adjusted upward accordingly: psychiatry (20%), allergy/immunology (15%), obstetrics/gynecology (15%), and pediatrics (5%). Pediatricians, obstetrician-gynecologists, and allergists may have many patients insured by Medicaid but few or no patients with Medicare and will require a different approach. The funds are for the purpose of supporting physician practices in light of lost revenue, such as for paying salaries, benefits, and overhead and making necessary investments to continue providing care such as telehealth.”

The letter claimed that many physicians are facing Covid-19 related hardships, including staying in hotels or renting apartments in order to social distance from their families to prevent transmission.

“We are also concerned that small practices are particularly vulnerable to financial ruin as they have less ready access to capital and are already operating on razor thin margins,” the letter stated. “In addition, we have heard from many large physician practices and faculty practice plans that have over 500 employees and will not qualify for the small business assistance in the CARES Act. They are faced with the untenable position of laying off staff and physicians due to lower financial revenues while preparing for, and in some areas of the country, responding to a surge in patients with Covid-19.”

AMA President — Science Must Guide Actions During Pandemic

Earlier, AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, in remarks at the National Press Club, put the AMA record in support of mitigation efforts, especially physical distancing.

“The most effective tool we have in this fight, at this moment is physical distancing, which means every city and state that has not yet implemented shelter in place or stay at home restrictions, needs to do so immediately,” she said.

She also emphasized the importance of science in guiding the action in fighting Covid-19. “We have witnessed a concerning shift over the last several decades where policy decisions seem to be driven by ideology and politics instead of facts and evidence,” she said.

She noted that in this pandemic, there are many unknowns, but it is important to always return to the science and the data to guide our actions, adding that, as the evidence around Covid-19 evolves our strategy, tactics and behaviors should change.

“It is science, research and evidence, and not wishful thinking or ideology that gives us hope as we face uncertainty around this pandemic,” she said. “It is science that will bring about proven treatments for Covid-19. It is science that will bring about a vaccine…We are not powerless in this health crisis and we must all commit to evidence-based action to fight this disease.”

In her address, she also noted that the public is doing a good job in physical distancing but called on the nation’s leaders to do more. “All of us need to trust that our institutions are also keeping science at the fore of their decisions-making.”

Candace Hoffmann, Managing Editor, BreakingMED™

Cat ID: 190

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