AAPM&R is Calling for a Comprehensive National Plan to Address the Needs of Millions Suffering from Long COVID

According to two recent publications from the Journal of the American Medical Association, ten to thirty percent of individuals who had COVID-19 reported at least one persistent symptom up to six months after the virus left their bodies. That means 3 to 10 million Americans are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), which are varied and ongoing, including neurological challenges, cognitive problems such as brain fog, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain, and mobility issues.

AAPM&R called on President Joe Biden and Congress to gear up for the next coronavirus crisis by preparing and implementing a comprehensive national plan focused on meeting the needs of millions of individuals suffering from the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, and help them regain quality of life and return to being active members of their communities. The plan must include a commitment to three major components:

  • Resources to build necessary infrastructure to meet this crisis
  • Equitable access to care for patients
  • Research to advance medical understanding of Long COVID

PM&R physicians are uniquely qualified to help guide the multidisciplinary effort needed to develop a plan for this crisis. As a specialty, physiatrists are investigators, team leaders and problem solvers. PM&R physicians see the whole patient AND the whole picture of the rehabilitation ecosystem. Physiatrists are exactly what this crisis needs. Learn more about our Multidisciplinary PASC Collaborative, launched in March 2021, which is working on quality improvement initiatives.

AAPM&R Advocacy, Healthcare Collaborations and Partnerships, and Customized Resources to Support PM&R During This Crisis

AAPM&R is working to ensure PM&R is part of the national conversation about healthcare amidst COVID-19 and advocating for the federal support, legislation, regulation relief and resources that physiatrists need now. One way we are doing this is through our partnerships and collaborations with other specialty societies. The Academy continuously works to represent PM&R through these collaborations, and it is through these partnerships that we are able to discuss and share a variety of resources with you that you critically need.

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CMS Announces Major New Flexibilities for Physicians During COVID-19 Emergency

Mar 31, 2020

On March 30, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a number of new policies to help physicians and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AAPM&R is currently undergoing an in-depth review of these materials, but we can share important updates with you below. As we take a closer look at the materials from CMS, we will share additional information with you and will continually update our COVID-19 Member Support and Resource Center.

  • Local private practice clinicians and their trained staff may take temporary employment at hospitals and health care systems while they are not performing nonessential services.
  • CMS has expanded the list of services physicians can provide via telehealth during this public health emergency. Additionally, for telehealth visits on the Medicare telehealth services list provided with audio and visual equipment permitting two-way real-time interactive communication can be reimbursed the same as a face-to-face visit. CMS also indicated it will reimburse for telephone visits (CPT codes 98966-98968 and 99441-99443). Find a summary of the physician and provider specific items here.
  • CMS issued several emergency declaration blanket waivers for health care providers, which includes the following provision:
    • Flexibility for Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities Regarding the “60 Percent Rule” – CMS is allowing IRFs to exclude patients from the freestanding hospital’s or excluded distinct part unit’s inpatient population for purposes of calculating the applicable thresholds associated with the requirements to receive payment as an IRF (commonly referred to as the “60 percent rule”) if an IRF admits a patient solely to respond to the emergency and the patient’s medical record properly identifies the patient as such. In addition, during the applicable waiver time period, we would also apply the exception to facilities not yet classified as IRFs, but that are attempting to obtain classification as an IRF.
  • Other flexibilities for inpatient rehabilitation facilities in the fight against COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:
    • Use of telehealth to fulfill the face-to face physician visits at least three days a week
    • Waiver of the Post-Admission Physician Evaluation
  • CMS released COVID-19 provider burden relief FAQs, including information regarding eliminating paperwork requirements to allow clinicians to focus on patients:
    • Q. Is CMS suspending most Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) medical review during the Public Health Emergency (PHE) period for the COVID-19 pandemic?
      A. Yes, CMS has suspended most Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) medical review during the emergency period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes pre-payment medical reviews conducted by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) under the Targeted Probe and Educate program, and post-payment reviews conducted by the MACs, Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC) reviews and Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC). No additional documentation requests will be issued for the duration of the PHE for the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted Probe and Educate reviews that are in process will be suspended and claims will be released and paid. Current post-payment MAC, SMRC, and RAC reviews will be suspended and released from review. This suspension of medical review activities is for the duration of the PHE. However, CMS may conduct medical reviews during or after the PHE if there is an indication of potential fraud.