The COVID-19 stimulus bill (the CARES Act) included a $100 billion fund designed to support health care providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From the moment the bill passed, ACEP has pushed the Trump Administration to distribute funding immediately to frontline health care practitioners, especially emergency physicians, who are risking their lives combating the virus and have the greatest risk of missing work because of being exposed to COVID-19.
On March 27, ACEP sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking that HHS prioritize funding for emergency physicians—and then on April 3, we sent a follow-up letter specifically requesting that HHS distribute $3.6 billion to emergency physician practices. We chose not to sign on to an American Medical Association (AMA) letter to HHS that asked the Secretary to distribute funding to all physicians and non-physician practitioners because it used the same methodology for calculating payments regardless of specialty and did not prioritizing funding for emergency physicians and other frontline practitioners.
Unfortunately, at this time, it seems like HHS is headed in a different direction. On April 7, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced that $30 billion of the $100 billion pot would go to all health care providers (including physicians, hospitals, and all other non-physician practitioners and facilities) based on historical Medicare spending.
We strongly disagree with this approach for a few reasons:
- Preferential Treatment Toward Hospitals: Since hospitals have the highest Medicare payments, they will receive the majority of the funding.
- Unfairly Penalizes EM Practices Caring for Underserved Populations: Emergency physician practices that see fewer Medicare patients and have a higher case load of Medicaid and uninsured patients are unfairly penalized under this approach.
- Does Not Prioritize Frontline Healthcare Practitioners: Plain and simple, emergency physicians deserve more support at this time than dermatologists and other non-essential specialties. All things are not equal. Emergency physicians and teams are accepting the highest risk levels for COVID. In turn, they should receive the highest level of support from emergency funding instead of being placed on a lengthy list behind hospital systems and non-essential specialties.
We know we have our work cut out for us, but please know ACEP will continue to fight for you. We are pushing as hard as we can to ensure you are supported and protected during this difficult time.