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ASCA Calls for Continued Access to Care During COVID-19

The surgery center association lobbies Congress for support of patients who need elective surgery and the providers who can deliver it.

Published: July 9, 2020

BRING IT HERE BRING IT HERE  As COVID-19 flareups continue to ravage the nation, ASCA told Congressional leaders that elective surgeries at ASCs should not be shut down again.

The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) wants elective surgeries to continue in ASCs during the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of future spikes in infection rates, according to a letter ASCA CEO William Prentice wrote to Congressional leaders last week. The letter, which cites a proven track record of safety among the nation's 5,800 Medicare-certified surgery centers, implores Congress to provide financial assistance for patients who need surgical care and regulatory support for surgical professionals to prevent another nationwide shutdown of outpatient ORs.

Mr. Prentice updated Congressional leaders on the resumption of care at ASCs, which he says are treating patients without increasing the risk of COVID-19 spread. He said ASCs are effectively implementing testing, screening and social distancing protocols, and cited a survey conducted by the ASC Quality Collaboration that found only 16 patients out of more than 84,000 who underwent surgery at 709 facilities reported being COVID-19 positive within 14 days of surgery. All patients were asymptomatic before and during their procedures and none of the cases have been definitively linked to the episode of care provided at an ASC, according to Mr. Prentice. As a result of this data, he proposed "future spikes should not lead to federal or state guidance to postpone elective care again."

The the letter highlights four priorities for future COVID-related congressional action:

  1. Help for Americans who need financial assistance to access healthcare. Prentice called for "substantial subsidies for COBRA continuation coverage" and capped out-of-pocket liability for Medicare beneficiaries in the ASC setting "at the same level and manner in which the hospital outpatient department coinsurance is capped at the inpatient deductible."
  2. Improved access to affordable PPE and medical supplies.
  3. Protection for providers from medical liability lawsuits related to "any remote possibility" of COVID-19 infection.
  4. "Similar treatment" toward all providers when extending financial or regulatory support, "assuring that the entire continuum of care remains available to patients in need."

"Addressing these four priorities legislatively will ensure that patients can continue to access the health care they need and allow ASCs to continue to serve patients and their families," wrote Mr. Prentice.

Joe Paone

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