COVID-19: Important Updates for GI Practices

From ACG Legislative and Public Policy Council Chair, Whitfield L. Knapple, MD, FACG

In an effort to keep ACG members up-to-date on important updates in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, please find below the latest information tailored for GI practices

Congress Working on COVID-19 Relief Package: As of Friday, August 14, the U.S. House and Senate leadership both remain far apart on a COVID-19 relief package. U.S. Senate Republicans released a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package recently and the U.S. House of Representatives already passed a $3 trillion package, the HEROES Act, in May. While Congress remains at a stalemate on a COVID-19 relief package, it was a busy week on Capitol Hill for ACG, as we continue to work with Congress on important issues for GI practices and patients.

Medicare Payment Cuts and E/M Services: Medicare physician payments are scheduled to be cut across most specialties in CY 2021 when changes to evaluation and management (E/M) services are implemented. ACG and the GI societies are already working with Congress and CMS on this important issue. CMS must forgo budget-neutrality rules when implementing changes to E/M services. As ACG alerted you last week, ACG and the GI societies worked with Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) in leading a letter to House leadership asking for a 2 year budget neutrality waiver. The final letter had 92 co-signatories. Thank you ACG members for your advocacy efforts!

In July, the GI societies also joined over 100 specialty societies on a letter asking Secretary of HHS Alex Azar that the agency use its authority under the public health emergency (PHE) declaration to waive budget neutrality for the changes.

Provider Relief Payments and Taxes: ACG has been actively working with a coalition of societies on reversing an IRS decision that makes payments made under the Provider Relief Fund subject to income taxation. Good news. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has agreed to champion this issue in the U.S. Senate and introduced legislation this week. We need you to urge your U.S. Senators to support the bill.

 

On July 17th, ACG President Mark B. Pochapin, MD FACG urged Congressional action to clarify and correct the tax consequences stemming from payments made under the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These programs were intended to support ACG members and small businesses through the worst public health crisis in generations. If Congress does not act, taxpaying health care providers could lose up to 21% of their CARES Act funds. Providers should not have to worry about these issues when they are focused on using scarcely available financial resources to provide safe and high-quality care to their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth Advocacy: Many GI practices hope to continue offering telehealth services beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency. ACG continues to work with policymakers on  extending these important telehealth flexibilities.  ACG met with various members of the Congressional Telehealth Caucus and has endorsed their bill that extends many of these telehealth waivers.

 

ACG will continue to advocate on behalf of clinical gastroenterology and our patients as Congress negotiates any COVID-19 relief legislation.

ACG Member Benefit: PPE at Discounted Prices

The College is pleased to announce a collaboration with Project N95, a nonprofit organization working to get critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers. ACG members have a special opportunity to purchase the following PPE at bulk pricing and in small quantities: N95 respirators (small sizes too), isolation gowns, and disposable face shields.

ACG will be offering a one-week ordering period beginning August 19 to 26. This opportunity is available to ACG members in the U.S.

Stay tuned for more information on August 19th!

ACG Listening to Membership

A June 2020 ACG Practice Management Committee survey of membership showed that 25% of ACG members still have trouble accessing PPE. ACG’s survey results are consistent with a larger survey of health care workers concluding that there is a significant disparity in accessing PPE, with smaller practices having trouble finding PPE precisely at a time when COVID-19 is spreading in some of these areas. Thus, ACG sought opportunities to help GI practices and members across the country and welcomes the opportunity to partner with a coalition led by the American College of Physicians and Project N95.  The College continues to strive to meet the needs of ACG members, helping you get through these trying and uncertain times.

Click here to learn more.


ACG Guidance on Reopening Your Endoscopy Center: Find the Latest Information on Your State

From Chair and Vice Chair of the ACG Board of Governors, Neil H. Stollman, MD, FACG and Patrick E. Young, MD, FACG

“Federal guidance is extensive, but local regulations and conditions dominate”

The ACG Board of Governors and the ACG Endoscopy Resumption Task Force are closely monitoring the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in certain areas of the country, including recent announcements to further delay elective procedures. The CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing requirements and reopening are made at the state and local level. Interested in learning more on the latest information on your state? Your state governor's website will have the latest information on COVID-19 prevalence and plans for reopening. The Council of State Governments website is tracking information on your state (updated regularly).

The ACG Guidance on Safely Reopening Your Endoscopy Center recognizes that not all areas of the country are the same, and each region/state is dealing with various levels of COVID-19 prevalence, ability to test patients/staff, as well as the ability to access personal protective equipment. The ACG Governors continue to monitor state executive orders on reopening our practices and expanding procedures across the U.S. Many ACG members have recently received communications from your ACG Governor, providing the latest information on your state. The ACG Board of Governors will continue to monitor these developments on your behalf and keep you updated.

What is the Practice Management Toolbox?

The Toolbox is a series of short articles, written by practicing gastroenterologists, that provide members with easily accessible information to improve their practices. Each article covers an issue important to private practice gastroenterologists and physician-lead clinical practices. They include a brief introduction, a topic overview, specific suggestions, helpful examples and a list of resources or references. Each month a new edition of the Toolbox will be released and will then remain available here along with all previous editions. The Practice Management Committee is confident this series will a provide valuable resource for members striving to optimize their practices.