Call to Extend Deadline for Medicare Repayment
The American Medical Association (AMA) has asked federal officials to extend the deadline for repaying Medicare money advanced earlier this year to help clinicians manage financial shortfalls from the COVID-19 pandemic.
CMS approved almost 24,000 applications totaling $40.4 billion in advance Medicare payments to physicians and other healthcare professionals in the early weeks of the pandemic, the AMA said in a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. Current terms call for repayment to start at 120 days after the advance was issued, which can be as early as the first week of August for some clinicians, according to the AMA.
Separately, on July 31, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the extension of deadlines for clinicians who have many patients enrolled in Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to apply for a pool of federal aid.
Why Are We Still Talking About HCQ?
Scientists have been debating the usefulness of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. But now, with the increasing number of well-done, evidence-based trials showing minimal-to-no benefit, if the evidence supporting its use were to be put through the standard FDA approval panels, “it wouldn’t have a chance,” writes neurologist Allan M. Block, MD.
“With an implacable enemy such as COVID-19 at the door, money and effort need to be focused on finding what works, not on putting stale milk back in the refrigerator and hoping it comes out fresh,” Block writes.
Fauci Optimistic Despite Scientific Worries for a Vaccine
In the race to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, scientists have many worries. Some worry that the immune protection provided by a vaccine could fade, as studies have shown antibodies disappear from the blood of COVID-19 survivors. Another worry is that the protection from vaccines may be limited, and people may need to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Plus, the leading vaccine candidates are based on new approaches that have not yet resulted in a licensed vaccine.
Yet in an interview with Kaiser Health News, the country’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, MD, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that researchers will overcome such obstacles.
“We know the body can make an adequate response against this virus” after two shots of a vaccine being tested, Fauci said. “There’s no reason to believe that we won’t be able to develop a vaccine against it.”
AMA #MaskUp Campaign
The AMA has launched a #MaskUp social media campaign to normalize mask-wearing and debunk myths in the fight against COVID-19, the association announced in a press release. The campaign will provide messaging and guidance to patients and aids to help physicians reinforce the need for masks.
“COVID-19 respects no geographic, demographic, or ideological boundaries, and unfortunately it shows no signs of going away any time soon,” AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, said. “By wearing a cloth mask, practicing social distancing, and regularly washing our hands, we can all prevent the spread of COVID-19.”