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Medical Society of Delaware, state societies send letter to Congress

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

The Medical Society of Delaware joined other state medical societies in a June 18 letter urging Congress to fight for funding for community physician practices in the next stimulus package.

“On behalf of the tens of thousands of physicians collectively represented by our associations, and the millions of patients we treat, we are urging that Congress continue to fight for needed funding in the next ‘stimulus’ package to assist community physician practices to be able to keep their doors open for their patients,” read the letter. “Like many businesses, our physicians have faced a devastating impact on their practices as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“At stake is access to care for the patients we serve and the staff we employ,” continued the letter. “With patients having appropriately limited their trips out of the house including to their doctor’s offices along with all elective procedures being suspended for months, the impact has devastated practices and the hundreds of thousands of those physicians employed by community physician practice.”

“For example, a survey by the Medical Society of the State of New York found that 79% of physicians had seen a reduction of more than 50% in the volume of patients visiting their practices; nearly 3/4 had a greater than 50% drop in practice revenue; and 40% had to lay off or furlough at least 25% of their staff,” continued the letter. “While the survey also demonstrated that the CARES Act enacted by Congress in March and supplemented in April helped to marginally offset some of these enormous deficits, it has been nowhere near enough to ensure the survival of many physician practices across the state.”

“We urge that you fight to ensure that the final package includes important protections, including a restart of the Medicare Advance Payment Program and ensuring that grant funding is dedicated to community physician practices without size restrictions or employee thresholds,” continued the letter. “So far, community physicians have only received a microscopic portion of the billions in grant funding allocated by Congress in the CARES Act, which has mostly benefited large health systems. While our hospitals must be protected and strengthened, so too must our community physicians for whom our patients depend.”

“We also urge that the next stimulus bill include provisions to ensure that critically important expanded telehealth coverage rules are maintained — including required coverage by ERISA plans not subject to state regulation but also rejecting industry efforts to fulfill network adequacy requirements only through telehealth at the expense of in-person care,” continued the letter.

“We also urge that the market dominant health insurers who faced a significant drop in claim submissions ensure that their windfall profits are shared with their contracted physicians including through support for the huge increase in Personal Protective equipment costs,” continued the letter. “For example, Aetna recently announced that its claims submission had dropped by 30% during April at the height of the pandemic.”

“Moreover, it is critically important that any proposal to address surprise out of network medical bills are consistent with demonstrated successful laws such as New York’s groundbreaking solution, rather than one-sided solutions advanced by the market-dominant health insurance industry that could potentially adversely impact patient access to essential on-call specialty care in emergency departments across the state,” continued the letter. “Now is not the time to disrupt our health care safety net.”

“Critically important as well is providing support for those physicians, residents and students who provided on the front lines who provided needed care to patients while putting their life and health at risk, including hazard pay and/or student loan relief,” continued the letter. “Rep. [Carolyn] Maloney has advanced important legislation — HR 6720 — that would achieve this goal.”

“To repeat — we are extremely concerned about the stability of our health care system given these enormous losses,” continued the letter. “The next package coming out of Congress must help to preserve our states’ health care infrastructure, including community physician practices. This is not only essential for the hundreds of thousands of jobs we provide but most importantly to ensure we can continue to be able to treat our patients who continue to depend upon as begin to recover from this crisis.”

The letter was co-signed by the Connecticut State Medical Society, Med Chi, The Maryland State Medical Society, Medical Society of New Jersey, Medical Society of The State of New York and the Ohio State Medical Association.