AMA issues update on COVID-19 efforts, developments

The American Medical Association (AMA) distributed the following COVID-19 update on March 13…

AMA is “engaged in an ongoing dialogue with various arms of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), both to offer constructive recommendations and to obtain guidance that will help physicians and their patients. [AMA has] also been working with Congress on two supplemental spending bills targeted at providing more support to communities nationwide.”

AMA recently joined with the American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association [to write] a letter “urging the Administration to declare a national emergency that would give federal agencies greater flexibility in allocating resources to address the crisis.”

AMA has been “in close touch with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to urge better tracking of test kit availability and improved communications to physicians about obtaining personal protective equipment.”

AMA notes that, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has exercised increased flexibility in the issuance of the Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for laboratories developing tests for SARS-CoV-2 with policy guidance issued on February 29.” AMA has “urged FDA to consider what, if any, additional flexibilities they may extend to help ensure an adequate number of SARS-CoV-2 tests are available (understanding that much of the problem is now due to stressed manufacturing capacity worldwide).” And AMA has “also asked the agency to provide as much information as possible to physicians about where they and their patients can access tests on the community level.”

AMA has made a series of recommendations to “[CMS], especially with respect to the telehealth service provisions that were included in the first supplemental spending bill passed by Congress. [AMA believes] the new law provides the agency with very broad authority, and [AMA has] urged CMS to substantially expand its coverage of patient-physician telephone conversations. Telehealth services should also be extended to ongoing care needs unrelated to COVID-19 during this time of ‘social distancing,’ which is particularly relevant to elderly Medicare beneficiaries who are most at risk of severe complications from exposure to the virus. In addition, [AMA has recommended] a solution to CMS about currently inadequate ICD-10 diagnosis coding for COVID-19.”

AMA notes that “many physicians and laboratories remain confused with respect to testing protocol and prioritization, and have strongly urged HHS to provide further clarity around testing criteria and work with stakeholders, including state and local health departments, to eliminate these misunderstandings.” 

And AMA says that it is “working to get [physicians’] questions answered, and to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information possible to help physicians and their patients. Federal agencies have been issuing guidance material and fact sheets daily, which [AMA expects] to continue for some time. [AMA believes] more detailed guidance on Medicare’s expanded telehealth coverage will be issued early next week.”

AMA COVID-19 resources web page