Most Practices Need Help
While the medical societies’ letter makes a strong pitch for supporting physicians who are combating COVID-19, Harris and Doherty noted that physicians in all kinds of practice situations desperately need this help.
“We’ve heard from many physician practices that they have trouble making payroll,” Doherty said. “Many of them are not seeking any money out of the practices for themselves right now. They’re just trying to keep their staff employed. And some will shut their doors, unless there’s a significant and immediate infusion of money to them. From a healthcare capacity viewpoint, it’s not going to be to anyone’s benefit to see a substantial number of practices laying off staff or closing up entirely because they don’t have the money coming in to keep the doors open,” he said.
Harris agreed. “We’re hearing from practices large and small all over the country, including solo practices. Even the larger practices are losing revenue,” she pointed out. “They appropriately shut down their offices or reduced their hours. They didn’t want to contribute to the further spread of COVID-19.”
Rural practices and those launched by young physicians are facing especially difficult challenges, Harris added, and some may not make it.
It’s also important for policy makers to look ahead to what lies after the pandemic, she said. “We will come out of this, but when we come out of it there will be a lot of pent-up or unmet need where folks delayed necessary visits. Physicians and practices will have to be ready to go. If practices have to furlough some staff, it’s going to take time to ramp that up. So we’re glad to see support of physician practices so the infrastructure is strong when we start again.”
What happens if HHS turns down the medical societies’ request? “We’re hopeful that the [HHS] secretary will agree to what we’re asking,” Doherty said. While it’s always possible to ask Congress to intervene in the next stimulus bill, he said, that wouldn’t happen fast enough to get the money to physicians when they really need it.
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