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.

ACG Promoting Telehealth on Capitol Hill: This week ACG met with various members of the U.S. Congressional Telehealth Caucus to express support for the Protecting Access to Post-Covid-19 Telehealth Act. This bipartisan bill works to expand the use of telehealth by eliminating geographic and originating site restrictions in Medicare, maintains reimbursement for telehealth for 90 days beyond the end of the public health emergency, and enables Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand telehealth in Medicare for any future emergency or disaster.  ACG educated staff on the latest membership survey data on telehealth services, underscoring the importance of this bill and maintaining access to telehealth services. 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.


Interested in learning more about the latest ACG membership survey data? Click here to register for the “COVID-19: Overcoming Operational Challenges of the New Normal” webinar on July 27th at 8-9:30 PM.

HHS “Telemedicine Hack” Course: HHS recently announced a 10-week learning course to on telemedicine. There is no cost for this course and CME credits are available. Among the topics: workflow, documentation, best practices, and reimbursement. These sessions are also recorded to view at a later time. ACG members can register here. ACG is working with HHS on including helpful tips for GI practices, including for those in small practices and in rural areas.

HHS Extends COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration: As expected, HHS Secretary Alex Azar extended for an additional 90 days the current COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, which is set to expire on July 25th.

Drug Pricing Executive Orders: President Trump on Friday announced four executive orders aimed at lowering prescription drug costs. The orders announced require federal community health centers to pass discounts on insulin and EpiPens directly to their patients, allow states, wholesalers, and pharmacies to import drugs from Canada and other countries, requires discounts pharmacy benefit managers receive from drug companies to be passed on directly to patients, and requires Medicare to purchase drugs at the same price as other countries. The orders are not immediately enforceable and drug companies will have the option of proposing alternative pricing plans.

Congress Working on COVID-19 Relief Package: U.S. Senate Republicans are poised to rollout a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package next week. The U.S. House of Representatives already passed $3 trillion package, the HEROES Act, in May and there’s a significant gap between the two proposals. The $600-per-week federal unemployment assistance payments are set to expire end the end of the month, coinciding with a federal eviction moratorium also ending at the end of the month. Of note to ACG members, the Senate package is expected to allocate an additional $90 billion to the Payment Protection Program. Medical providers, businesses, schools and other organizations are also expected to get liability protection from lawsuits arising from exposure to COVID-19. Lawsuits would be moved to federal courts, and plaintiffs would have to show "gross negligence" in order to win.

ACG is currently working with Congress to include important relief provisions for GI practices and patients.

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.

Register for New ACG Endoscopy Resumption Task Force Webinar: COVID-19: Overcoming Operational Challenges of the New Normal