News in brief

COVID-19 resources for DOs and students: Free hotel rooms for DOs, advocacy opportunity

Learn about the latest tools, news and updates available to help you navigate the global pandemic.

As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread domestically and abroad, the AOA’s top priority remains supporting the needs of DOs and osteopathic medical students.

We have assembled a resource page to help physicians and medical students navigate the global health crisis—whether you are caring for patients as a frontline health care professional or supporting in other ways.

AOA staff members are continuously updating this page as new information becomes available. Here are some of the latest updates.

Member benefit: Free hotel rooms for COVID-19 frontline physicians

Hilton and American Express have partnered to donate up to 1 million free hotel nights to AOA members serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bookings can be made for up to 7 consecutive nights at a time and are currently open through May 9, 2020. The program will run through May 31, with rooms being added through the end of May on a rolling basis, subject to availability. Learn more (AOA login required).

The AOA calls for payment parity between telephone and office visits

We have heard from our members that many patients are not able to visit with their doctor in person and are instead speaking to their physician via telephone, for audio-only visits. Currently, CPT codes 99201-99215 are available and at comparable rates as if these were in-person visits; however, some patients are unable to connect with their physicians for video-based visits, as they may not have devices that facilitate videoconferencing.

The AOA recently participated in a letter sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging them to take the following actions:

  • Provide payment parity between telephone evaluation and management (E/M) codes (99441-99443) and office visit E/M codes.
  • Immediately provide guidance to Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to ensure that recent CMS guidance and rules are followed appropriately to enable the payment of telephone E/M claims.

Tell Congress to expand medical leave benefits for health professionals

Congress recently passed a law that expands paid medical leave for most Americans, but leaves out physicians and other health professionals. As physicians across the country continue to battle the COVID-19 outbreak, they should not have to make the following life-threatening decision when they or a loved one get sick:

Continue to treat patients and risk spreading the virus, or;
Stay home and not receive paid medical benefits.

Please take the time to email your members of Congress today. Let them know that any future stimulus packages that address COVID-19 must provide our health care workforce with the same paid family and medical leave benefits already granted to others. Your actions today will help ensure that patients and their physicians can stay safe during this crisis.

CMS issues new COVID-19 guidance on re-opening country, requirements for nursing home transparency

On April 20, CMS issued new recommendations specifically targeted to communities that are in Phase 1 of the Guidelines for President Donald Trump’s Opening Up America Again with low incidence or relatively low and stable incidence of COVID-19 cases. The recommendations update CMS’ earlier guidance provided on March 18 on limiting non-essential surgeries and medical procedures.

The new CMS guidelines recommend a gradual transition and encourage health care providers to coordinate with local and state public health officials, and to review the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies, workforce availability, facility readiness, and testing capacity when making the decision to re-start or increase in-person care. Learn more.

This week, CMS also announced new regulatory requirements that will require nursing homes to inform residents, their families and representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities. In addition, as part of CMS’ efforts to re-open America, nursing homes will now be required to report cases of COVID-19 directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This information must be reported in accordance with existing privacy regulations and statutes. This measure augments longstanding requirements for reporting infectious disease to state and local health departments. Finally, CMS will also require nursing homes to fully cooperate with CDC surveillance efforts around COVID-19 spread.

The CDC will be providing a reporting tool to nursing homes that will support federal efforts to collect nationwide data to assist in COVID-19 surveillance and response. Learn more.

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