U.S. Congress Passes COVID-19 Relief Package Including Significant Provisions for Physician Practices

On December 22, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, a comprehensive omnibus spending package that funds the federal government through fiscal year 2021, provides a new round of COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus, and imposes new restrictions on surprise medical billing. With respect to COVID-19 relief, the legislation would ease the impact of the Medicare fee schedule budget neutrality adjustments in calendar year 2021 due to improved evaluation and management office visit payment and coding rules, as well as an extension of the 2% Medicare sequester moratorium through March 2021.

The surprise billing provisions include significant improvements over previous proposals, including a robust independent dispute resolution system.

Other significant provisions related to health care, medical education, and public health include:

  1. Additional funding for the Provider Relief Fund and continuation of the Paycheck Protection Program
  2. Distribution of an additional 1,000 Medicare-funded graduate medical education slots
  3. Flexibility for hospitals to host a limited number of residents for short-term rotations without being negatively impacted by a set permanent full-time equivalent resident cap or per resident amount
  4. Delay of Medicare Radiation Oncology Model implementation until January 1, 2022
  5. Several provisions to expand broadband accessibility with a particular focus on rural and tribal communities
  6. Implementation of a rural health clinic payment reform plan and creation of a voluntary Medicare payment designation for conversion of critical access hospitals to rural emergency hospitals in order to preserve emergency care access to beneficiaries
  7. Creation of an evidence-based national vaccine awareness campaign to combat misinformation
  8. Provisions designated to strengthen parity of mental health and substance use disorder benefits
  9. Enhanced funding for federal nutrition assistance programs

To read the full text of the act, please click here: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

To read a detailed summary, click here: COVID-19 Relief Package Summary

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