On March 20, the AUA, along with the American College of Surgeons and 20 other surgical specialties, sent an urgent letter to House and Senate Leadership outlining numerous provisions that are greatly needed as Congress continues to push legislation to help stave off the extreme challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Surgical Coalition’s communication covered a wide-range of issues, including protecting front-line physicians by ensuring they have the equipment they need and that Good Samaritans are protected when crossing state lines. Additionally, the letter calls for lawmakers to promote efficient access to necessary care by relieving prior authorization requirements, protecting physician practices through small business relief programs, and suspending the 2 percent annual Medicare budget sequester.
One particular issue the AUA requested to be included in the letter was the need to prevent frivolous lawsuits related to new perceived violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) during telehealth treatment. The letter specifically states:
Provided a physicians’ intent is to virtually treat a patient in their best interest and to the best of the physicians’ ability given the limitations of technology available to both the physician and the patient, such physicians should not be held liable for any perceived or actual HIPAA violations.
This concern stems from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health & Human Services’ recent Notification of Enforcement Discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. The OCR will not impose penalties for noncompliance with regulatory requirements under HIPAA rules with the good faith provision of telehealth immediately.
More information to help providers during the COVID-19 pandemic is available in the AUA’s Coronavirus Resource Center