From KMS Executive Director Rachelle Colombo
Circumstances in our professional and day-to-day lives continue to change, perhaps more rapidly now than previously in the pandemic. The Kansas Legislature is, of course, affected by these circumstances as well, and is currently considering potential new approaches to their process—as well as a significantly revised schedule—to their work for the upcoming session. While we are in close communication with legislative leadership, it is too early to predict what shape their plans may take.
Our plans for Advocacy Day hinge, in large part, on the Legislature's plans. We want to be sure that we are meeting at the right time, in the most effective way, and in such a manner that safeguards your health and that of the patients for whom you provide care.
Because the legislative calendar appears likely to be changed, we believe it is most prudent to postpone Advocacy Day to a date to be determined, perhaps in the spring. As we await the Legislature's schedules and processes to be determined (perhaps in early January), we will be in touch with you with updated details on our plans for a rescheduled Advocacy Day. We will be looking at the best ways to engage you and to help you most effectively advocate given current circumstances.
As always, I welcome and encourage your feedback and questions as we work to plan an Advocacy Day that is effective, safe, and responsive to your preferences.
KMS Annual Meeting
While we are postponing Advocacy Day, the KMS Annual Meeting portion of the event—which is solely for selecting officers from the slate presented by the KMS nominating committee—is still scheduled to take place as planned, but via Zoom. Whether or not you have already registered for Advocacy Day, please complete this registration form for the KMS Annual Meeting if you plan to attend. We will be in touch with those who register with details for joining the Zoom meeting.
New COVID-19 relief package extends economic stimulus programs
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was signed into law Dec. 27 and includes a substantial COVID-19 relief package, including additional funding to help small businesses who have been negatively affected by the pandemic, including physician practices.
The law includes $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which had ended in August. Congress extended the program through March 31, 2021 and simplified the forgiveness process for loans of $150,000 and less. Under the program, small businesses can borrow money from private lenders without collateral, personal guarantees, or fees. The loans don't have to be repaid to the extent that they are used to cover certain allowable expenses. It is expected that the Small Business Administration (SBA) will reopen the PPP by Jan. 6 (until then, updated information may not be available on the SBA website linked to above).
The law also includes an additional $20 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The program is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. The law also includes $3.5 billion to resume debt relief payments on SBA loans, $57 million for the SBA Microloan Program, and $64 million in microloans for minority-owned and underserved small businesses. More information on the SBA website.
New COVID-19 relief package contains restrictions on surprise medical billing
The new COVID-19 relief package also contains several medicine- and patient-friendly measures, including improvements on the “No Surprises Act,” which the American Medical Association (AMA) objected to in December.
The final law incorporates an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process to settle disagreements between physicians and insurers over out-of-network payments. However, according to a summary from the AMA, the law makes improvements to balance billing such as:
- Clarification that an upfront, initial payment or notice of denial is required from health plans to the physician.
- An increase in the time for a physician to pursue an IDR, from two to four days.
- Prohibition against considering public program rates like Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare during the IDR process.
- Elimination of problematic timely billing provisions.
See a full high-level summary on the AMA website.
New COVID-19 relief package reduces requirements that would’ve cut physician Medicare payments
The new COVID-19 relief package eases the impact of a provision in the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule that was expected to lower many physicians' Medicare payments next year. According to an AMA summary, it does so in two ways:
- It implements an increase in the payment schedule of 3.75%, applied across the board.
- It improves rules on coding and payment for Evaluation and Management office visits.
The AMA estimates that most specialties will now see either a neutral or positive change in total Medicare payments in 2021.
See a full high-level summary on the AMA website.
Webinar: What's New in Medicare 2021
The Kansas Medical Society—in partnership with the Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA) and the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services—is hosting a webinar for members of KMS and MSMA on developments in Medicare coming in 2021. The webinar will be on Wednesday, January 20 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. More information and registration here.
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