ASPS Advocates for Members' Bottom Line
As the US approaches a grim milestone of one year since the first reported case of COVID-19, the financial health of many plastic surgery practices remains perilous as physicians struggle to perform procedures and see patients amid increasing restrictions and lockdowns. In addition, new and costly safety protocols and requirements have even further impacted physicians' bottom lines.
In these uncertain times, ASPS has been hard at work fighting for funding and policies to ensure the continued viability of its members' practices.
Advocating for a CPT code to fund PPE and other safety measures
On November 10, ASPS signed on to an AMA-led letter to CMS, the nation's seven largest health insurers and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), urging them to reimburse for CPT® code 99072. The code would compensate practices for the additional supplies and new staff activities required to provide safe patient care during the public health emergency.
The letter referenced AMA's COVID-19 Physician Practice Financial Impact Survey, which highlights the financial impact of the pandemic on physician practices. Among other metrics, the survey found that practice owners reported an average increase in PPE spending of 57% since February 2020, with 25% of owners saying that PPE expenses have risen at least 75%, presenting a clear need for reimbursement for these costs.
Urging Congress to make forgiven PPP loans tax-free
Ill-conceived rulemaking by the IRS following the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) threatens to saddle physician practices with significantly higher taxes when filing 2020 returns.
The CARES Act included a provision stipulating that any portion of a PPP loan that qualified for loan forgiveness "shall be excluded from gross income" for tax purposes. Despite the intent of Congress to extend this tax-free treatment, the IRS issued a notice, which stated that "no deduction is allowed under the Internal Revenue Code... if the payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a covered loan pursuant to section 1106(b) of the [CARES Act]."
The IRS ruling effectively transforms tax-free loan forgiveness into taxable income, laying the groundwork for a "surprise tax increase" of up to 37 percent on small businesses, including many plastic surgery practices.
Through a joint letter, ASPS joined a broad coalition of 550 trade associations calling on Congressional leadership to take immediate action to make PPP loans tax deductible for small businesses participating in the program. The groups requested that lawmakers enact legislation before the end of the year that includes "a technical correction addressing the tax treatment of loan forgiveness under the PPP."
Pushing for extended relief from 2 percent cuts under Medicare sequestration
As a member of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, ASPS has been working to extend the Medicare sequestration relief provided in the CARES Act – a key provision of the law that has provided critical relief to providers amid significant financial losses resulting from decreases in non-COVID-related and non-emergency care during the pandemic.
In an Alliance letter to Congressional leadership, ASPS joined 12 other specialty organizations in urging Congress to extend Medicare sequestration relief, which was provided in the CARES Act and is currently set to expire at the end of 2020.
Continuing to advocate for COVID relief
As the debate within Congress continues around what the government's latest response to the pandemic should entail, ASPS maintains its efforts to urge Congress to pass an additional round of COVID relief that is both balanced and timely.
The Society recently launched a grassroots campaign, asking members to contact their elected officials and request their support for a relief package that includes an authorization and funding allowing businesses to secure additional PPP loans.
ASPS remains committed to fighting for policies that protect the fiscal health of physician practices in this tumultuous environment. Watch ASPS emails for updates as these issues evolve and critical deadlines approach.