ADVOCACY IN A PANDEMIC 9-12-20
“What have you done for me lately?” is a fair question at any time, but it’s particularly germane in a time of crisis.
The ACP has taken the lead nationally in fighting for frontline physicians and their patients - in Congress, with the DHHS, CMS and other federal agencies. We are proud to support the College’s efforts on an ongoing basis, and you can be as well. Our thanks to those of you who, through the Advocates for Internal Medicine network, have joined in the College’s efforts.
At the state level, the PA-ACP has also taken a leading role in working with state government and the General Assembly, pushing for needed guidance, reforms, and changes to allow our practices and facilities to deal with the novel coronavirus and continue providing necessary health care to all Pennsylvanians now and in the future.
First and perhaps foremost, PA-ACP has been providing a daily/weekly update for members on state data, programs available, policy changes, and new guidance documents on the Chapter website at www.pa-acp.org. The Chapter’s Twitter account @PAChapterACP also posts information and updates in real time, as does the Chapter Facebook page.
Direct advocacy efforts are ongoing on a daily basis. PA-ACP has, on its own and working with coalitions of primary care, health care and patient advocacy groups, pushed for many state actions while supporting and advocating the ACP’s efforts with the state’s Congressional delegation.
In mid-March, PA-ACP urged the Wolf Administration to seek a presidential national emergency declaration for the Commonwealth, opening doors for additional federal support. That designation was approved in early April.
PA-ACP lobbied for use of telemedicine with both new and established patients, and for parity in reimbursements to practitioners for those services, a program accepted by CMS, and the state’s oversight agencies for Medicare, Medicaid and the CHIP program. PA-ACP recognized that telehealth care is critical to maintaining and protecting our patients’ health at this time.
The Chapter has had focused discussions with the state and legislative leadership to ensure that independent and small group physician practices get the financial support they need, get sufficient PPE and testing kits. That advocacy is ongoing.
We have asked that prior authorization for ongoing care and treatment of existing patients and for prescription of generic drugs be waived during the emergency declaration to free up time for patient care, helping keep patients out of the hospitals and saving needed beds.
PA-ACP pushed for and got inclusion of physician practices as eligible for all state and federally funded grants and forgivable loans for small businesses, noting the severity of the increased costs and reduced revenue being experienced by physicians on the frontlines of patient care.
PA-ACP, along with the ACP, successfully advocated waiving cost sharing for families in dealing with COVID-19.
In the General Assembly and Wolf Administration, we have advocated for strict social distancing, advising legislative leaders that this is not the time to relax those provisions, and that changing standards and guidance should be evidence-driven. We have also advocated for legislation that protects physician practices and other small businesses from economic losses because business interruption insurance often has provisions absolving the insurer from payments for virus-related shutdowns.
On the legal front, PA-ACP joined in asking the Courts to postpone depositions and discovery in medical malpractice lawsuits until after the pandemic is under control, to preserve physicians time for patient care.
And PA-ACP has called on the Governor and General Assembly to provide limited civil immunity from lawsuits, similar to the state’s good Samaritan act, for physicians and other health care practitioners during the COVID-19 emergency declaration. While our members are putting their safety and their lives on the line daily in dealing with COVID-19 patients, the last thing that they should have to worry about is looking over their shoulders to see medical malpractice lawsuits during a unique pandemic situation.
Advocacy is not just limited to legislation – the COVID-19 emergency has underscored that fact. Don’t forget to get a regular update from the Chapter Website at www.pa-acp.org, and while you’re on the site, sign up as a Keystone Contact, and add your voice to the Chapter’s in becoming an advocacy resource for your local elected officials!