The American Medical Group Association is pushing for new help for physicians after the Trump Administration stopped offering accelerated Medicare payments to medical practices late last month.
Physician practices were hit hard financially from the COVID-19 pandemic with the cancellation of elective procedures and stay-at-home orders which significantly reduced their revenues. To help, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded its accelerated and advance payment program for Medicare in March.
But in late April, CMS announced it was suspending the program that the advance payments to providers and was reevaluating another program that offered accelerated payments to health systems after doling out about $100 billion.
The association (AMGA) announced it is endorsing H.R. 6837 and S. 3750 known as the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Improvement Act aimed at reforming and reviving the Medicare loan program.
“AMGA members are fighting COVID-19 on two fronts,” said AMGA President and CEO Jerry Penso, M.D., in a statement. “Defeating and containing the disease is one battle, and fighting off the dire financial impact of it is another. The legislation AMGA is endorsing today not only will help our members continue to care for their patients during this national crisis, but also will help ensure they can serve their communities into the future.”
The legislation would continue the program while making improvements such as offering a longer repayment period and loan forgiveness in extreme hardship cases, officials said.
CMS approved more than 24,000 applications under the program and advanced more than $40 billion to Part B suppliers between the end of March and the end of April. It approved 21,000 applications for accelerated payments, totaling nearly $60 billion in payments to hospitals. Prior to COVID-19, the agency had only approved just over 100 of such requests.
The advanced and accelerated payments are not grants, but instead, payments that are required to be paid back within one year, officials said.
In late April, CMS officials said the suspension of the program was taken "in light of the $175 billion recently appropriated for healthcare provider relief payments," the agency said, referring to $100 billion allocated in the CARES Act as well as $75 billion allocated to providers through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.
“AMGA members will not stop fighting this virus and caring for their patients,” Penso said. “We can’t reopen, because we never close. Programs like the APP have helped make that possible, and we urge Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible.”