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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Congress Considers Next Round of COVID-19 Response Legislation

Jul 14, 2020

This July, both chambers of Congress have ramped up negotiations for the next legislative package to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout. Since the virus first arrived in the United States, Congress has passed five bills encompassing nearly $3 trillion in spending, including the CARES Act in March, which created the Provider Relief Fund, the Paycheck Protection Program, and waived the three-hour rule for IRF admissions, among other provisions. However, bipartisan negotiations on the next major package have been stalled since April, due to disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on the price tag and scope of further congressional action.

In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, a massive spending package to address the pandemic through state and local funding for testing and contact tracing, additional direct payments to individuals, hazard pay for frontline and essential workers, and a range of other Democratic priorities. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the HEROES Act would cost almost $3.5 trillion. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has stated that the Senate will not consider the HEROES Act in any form due to the partisan nature of its provisions.

In recent weeks, leaders of both parties and representatives of the Trump Administration have acknowledged the need for at least one additional major COVID-related bill and have indicated that they hope to debut a proposal for consideration and passage by the beginning of the August Congressional recess, which is scheduled to begin August 7. As both parties look toward their political conventions and their focus pivots to the November elections, it seems likely that Congress will act in some fashion, but it remains to be seen what agreement Democratic and Republican leaders will be able to reach with the President.

While details on the package are scarce and no legislative text has yet to be released, there are a few key proposals expected to feature prominently in the next COVID-19 bill. The top priority for Congressional Republicans is enacting liability shields for businesses (including healthcare facilities and schools) that re-open in order to protect them from lawsuits by customers or employees who may become infected with the virus. Democrats have focused on significant additional resources for state and local governments to fund testing and tracing and to address budget shortfalls, reforms to the loan process under the Paycheck Protection Program, and expansion of the federal boost to unemployment benefits (which are scheduled to lapse July 31).

The Trump administration has signaled that it would also like to see provisions addressing surprise medical billing (a major topic of discussion before the pandemic, though little progress has been made to solve the question of whether insurers or providers and patients should bear the costs of out-of-network care), price transparency for pharmaceuticals, and permanently enhancing the reimbursement rate for telemedicine. Additionally, many lower-income Americans may see another round of direct payments, though these may turn out to be less than the $1,200 authorized by the CARES Act.

While the provisions above reflect the current priorities for Congress, negotiations are likely to touch on a vast array of policies over the next few weeks, and the result may look quite different from what is currently envisioned by congressional leaders. However, as the virus continues to surge in many states across the country, it is becoming clear that Congress will need to put forth an additional legislative package to guide the federal response to the ongoing crisis.