June 12, 2020
The Honorable Alex Azar, Secretary
Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Azar;
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is greatly concerned that primary care is struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic, yet to date no federal support has expressly prioritized these essential clinicians. We therefore urge you to make an immediate, targeted Provider Relief Funds (PRF) allocation to primary care practices to offset revenue reductions and increased costs associated with the crisis. This allocation should be immediate, enough to prevent practices from imminent closure, and continue throughout this year.
Without immediate action, many practices may be forced to close or sell to investors, hospital systems, or other, which will likely increase costs. Primary care visits have dropped by nearly 50% during the public health emergency. Already nearly half of primary care clinicians have laid off or furloughed staff; two-thirds are getting paid for less than half the care they deliver, and 45% are unsure if they can remain open even another month. Telehealth has not offset the loss in patient visits and virtual care lacks full payment parity across all payers.
The situation is especially dire for those serving primarily Medicaid, privately and uninsured patients, as most relief to date has gone to Medicare.
We share your vision of a more effective health care system based on value with less red tape and more informed, empowered patients. However, right now, that transition is endangered by the deep financial stress caused by the pandemic on our already inadequate primary care infrastructure. By committing significant, immediate Provider Relief Funds, you can help rescue primary care before COVID-19 further damages these vital practices and the millions of Americans who rely on them.
Margaret E. O’Kane