Docs push HHS to offer direct funding as finances slump due to COVID-19

Medicine Money
Doctors are asking for cash from the Trump administration amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Getty/utah778)

Docs are urging the Trump administration to provide a month's worth of revenue to cover expenses as they're stretched financially due to COVID-19.

The American Medical Association (AHA) and a slew of other physician groups and state medical societies sent a letter (PDF) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tuesday asking the agency to pay out the money to each physician, nurse practitioner and physician assistant enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid.

The groups argue that they're eligible for the funding thanks to Congress' $2 trillion stimulus package, the CARES Act.

"Physicians are continuing to put their patients’ needs first to combat this unprecedented public health emergency," the groups wrote. "We urge you to support them against financial peril while they put their lives and businesses at risk."

RELATED: Providers want a cash infusion to fight COVID-19. But payers say they're doing plenty already

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has ramped up its accelerated payments program in Medicare, offering providers nationwide a cash infusion. Providers have said it's not enough, however, and hospitals have pushed private payers to take similar steps.

AMA and the other groups suggest that HHS take the clinicians' average monthly Medicare payment amount from October to December 2019 and triple it for the payouts. The payments should also account for certain specialties, such as psychiatry and OB-GYN, that see few Medicare patients.

The groups warn that physicians working in ambulatory surgical settings may be seeing far less revenue that normal as they're conducting fewer nonessential procedures to preserve supplies. Small practices are also at high risk, according to the letter.

"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 groups wrote.

The groups say oversight is baked in, as the payments would use existing data and processes and should be relatively easy to dispense.