MSSNY eNews: September 17, 2021 – We Honor Our Physicians Lost to Suicide Epidemic
Pro-Patient/Pro-Physician Health Care Policy Requires Politically Active Physicians
As we prepare to set MSSNY policy at our virtual House of Delegates this weekend, it is imperative that we put our support behind the legislators who will help us to move our pro-patient and pro-physician agenda forward in Albany. MSSNYPAC is critically important to advocacy efforts—it amplifies your voice and increases your impact on the formation of healthcare policy. Your support helps to shape and determine which policy initiatives MSSNY will pursue legislatively and helps MSSNY to move its policy intentions from the formation stage all the way through to statute or regulation.
I hope that you will work with us and be counted among the growing list of politically active physicians and allies investing in MSSNYPAC. The importance of the relationship between our profession—the care we provide to our patients—and the lawmakers who govern New York State cannot be overstated.
My request is simple. Invest in your profession by joining MSSNYPAC with a contribution of $100, $250 or $500 right now. If you are already a member, consider increasing your pledge of support. Please take a moment to join, renew, or increase your MSSNYPAC membership at www.mssnypac.org/contribute.
As I like to say, “we either have a seat at the table or we are on the menu.” Let’s make the choice to have a seat at the table.
On a More Somber Note
There is no easy way to transition to my next topic. Today, on National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, I want to remember and honor the physicians from all around the country who have lost their lives to this terrible epidemic. And to remind all of us of the importance of talking—and acting—so struggles don’t become mental health emergencies. Reach out to a colleague you suspect is struggling and remind them of MSSNY’s groundbreaking P2P program, which offers physicians, residents, and medical students a completely confidential and anonymous opportunity to talk with a peer about some of life stressors. Email P2P@mssny.org or call 1-844-P2P-PEER (1-844-727-7337) and request that you be connected with a peer supporter.
We are each other’s best support system.
Joseph Sellers, MD, FAAP, FACP
Today is National Physician Suicide Awareness Day
Today, Friday, September 17, 2021, is National Physician Suicide Awareness Day. The Physicians Foundation, Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation and #FirstRespondersFirst have come together to equip physicians, their loved ones, their colleagues, health organizations and others to help prevent physician suicide through Vital Signs: The Campaign to Prevent Physician Suicide.
MSSNY has joined the effort as a supporting organization, which signifies a commitment to continuously raising awareness of the physician suicide epidemic and galvanizing physicians, their colleagues and their loved ones to create a culture of wellbeing that prioritizes reducing burnout, safeguarding job satisfaction, and seeking mental health services as a sign of strength.
MSSNY’s Groundbreaking P2P Program
MSSNY now offers physicians, residents, and medical students a completely confidential and anonymous opportunity to talk with a peer about some of life stressors. MSSNY’s Physician Wellness and Resiliency Committee launched a Peer 2 Peer (P2P) program to assist colleagues in need of help in dealing with work and family stressors. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the emotional issues related to this event, may also be troubling for our colleagues. MSSNY has established a confidential helpline phone number (1-844-P2P-PEER) and an email address (email@example.com) so that physicians may be connected with a peer 24 hours a day/7 days a week. In addition to offering a trained, empathetic ear, peer supporters may provide information on specific resources that can offer further support, provide positive coping skills, or connect physicians to professionals for more focused assistance when needed. MSSNY has nearly 50 trained peer supporters across NYS who are just an email or phone call away.
If you or someone you know is struggling with everyday life stressors, reach out to MSSNY’s P2P program.
Email P2P@mssny.org or call 1-844-P2P-PEER (1-844-727-7337) and request that you be connected with a peer supporter.
The following commentary by MSSNY president Dr. Joseph Sellers and NYPA president Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein ran in the Albany Times Union on Friday, September 17:
The COVID-19 public health emergency triggered — by necessity — a significant shift in how patients receive health care. It is crucial for the health of New Yorkers that policymakers ensure that our patients continue to have access to telehealth care.
Telehealth availability became profoundly important for sustaining patient health — particularly in chronically ill patients — as the raging pandemic posed significant health risks in leaving homes. The surge in telehealth was particularly stark for care provided by mental health providers who were able to offer a range of services, including psychiatric evaluations, therapy, patient education and medication management, all via telehealth.
Recent data from Athena Health showed startling nationwide trends. Despite the fact that telehealth has been available for many years, it was the March 2020 lockdown that prompted a large expansion. Mental health and primary care were the most utilized services, with the number of patients receiving virtual mental health treatment increasing 130-fold during the pandemic.
The report also noted that a year ago, about 65 percent of Americans felt hesitant about the quality of telehealth, and 56 percent did not believe it provided the same level of care as in-person appointments. A year later, almost 88 percent want to continue using telehealth for non-urgent consultations.
The genie is out of the bottle. We must ensure continued patient access to a robust telehealth infrastructure. This requires policies to require fair insurer payment for telehealth services, given that physician payment for audio and video services has often not kept pace with rates paid for in-office visits. That gap is often wide. This threatens the gains we have made and harms efforts to build a robust network of practitioners willing to develop the infrastructure to participate.
Paying physicians at a substantially lower rate for telehealth services also disproportionately affects patient access in traditionally underserved communities — including low-income families and those with transportation or child care challenges — who often benefit most from the flexibility of telehealth.
As a result of vaccine hesitancy, the delta variant, and new, emerging variants, physicians and public health officials expect COVID-19 to remain a public health threat for the foreseeable future. It is therefore imperative that policies that promote the continued use of telehealth medical services become permanent.
Legislation to achieve that has been advanced by Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake. The measure would ensure equal payments for telehealth services when compared with in-person care. Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, is also a sponsor of the bill.
It is imperative that the Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul take immediate action to ensure that telehealth services are paid fairly to protect this important source of care for our patients.
PLEASE NOTE: As the New York State legislature gears up for the 2022 legislative session, MSSNY urges members to reach out to their legislator and ask them to ensure New Yorkers’ access to vital Telehealth services.
MSSNY Praises WC Telehealth Coverage Regulation while Also Raising Concerns with Certain Aspects
MSSNY has written to the New York State Workers Compensation Board (NYSWCB) to praise its proposal to continue WC coverage for telehealth services provided to injured workers but also to raise concerns with aspects of the proposal. In particular, MSSNY thanked the NYSWCB for not only continuing telehealth coverage for care to injured workers after the end of the declared state of emergency, but also continuing audio-only coverage of telehealth services.
However, MSSNY also raised concerns, shared by the psychiatric and orthopedic societies, with a component of the NYSWCB proposal requiring that an initial encounter and every third encounter be an in-person assessment regardless of the clinical circumstances. MSSNY also raised concerns with a provision that would require the initial medical provider to be required to also provide treatment and care at any subsequent telehealth encounter, which does not reflect the fact that care is often delivered in teams of physicians and other care providers. MSSNY also raised concerns with a component of the proposal that would prohibit supervision of surgical assistants by remote intra-operative monitoring. Finally, MSSNY urged that the regulation require parity in payment between in-person care and care delivered via telehealth, which MSSNY has been pushing for across all insurance coverage lines.
MSSNY’s Virtual HOD is Tomorrow, September 18: Watch the Proceedings Live on YouTube
The HOD proceedings will be live streamed tomorrow morning at 8 am. Click on this link to watch the live proceedings at any point during the day tomorrow.
Click here to access the list of 2021 HOD Resolutions.
MSSNY thanks the following sponsors for their generous support of the 2021 House of Delegates: MLMIC Insurance Company; Charles J. Sellers & Company Insurance; New York eHealth Collaborative; Garfunkel Wild, P.C. Attorneys at Law; and NYSSPA.
Tip of the Week: Know Your Rights When Credentialing with Commercial Insurers
It’s important to know your rights as a physician when it comes to credentialing with commercial insurances. Did you know there are actual laws when it comes to this subject matter? Below is quick reference to one of the many Providers Rights & Responsibilities on the DFS website. Click the link below to see all of them.
Credentialing of Providers. HMOs and insurers offering a managed care plan are required to complete a review of a healthcare professional’s application to participate in their network within 60 days.
If you have questions about this or any other insurance concern, contact MSSNY’s Director of Physician Payment and Practice, Heather Lopez at 518.465.8085 X332 | firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Urge Governor to Veto Multiple Pro-Trial Lawyer Tactical Bills
Physicians are urged to contact Governor Hochul’s office to urge Urge Governor to VETO Regressive Liability Bills (p2a.co) that she veto multiple problematic pro-trial lawyer bills passed at the end of the Legislative Session that if signed could have the effect of significantly disadvantaging defendants generally in litigation in New York State, including physicians and hospitals defending against malpractice claims. While these bills do not have the same gargantuan premium impact as other legislation sought by the trial bar that would expand lawsuits and awards against physicians, they would continue to make New York’s already dysfunctional medical liability adjudication system even more unbalanced and add to New York’s notorious outlier status with regard to medical liability payouts. These bills include:
- A2199/S473 – Expanding the time period for the imposition of New York’s excessive 9% judgment interest in cases where a plaintiff’s request for summary judgment was not initially granted, but then overturned on appeal.
- A8040/S7093 – Changing a long-standing rule that heretofore excluded a “hearsay” statement made by a defendant’s employee.
- A8041/S7052 – Imposing excessive insurance disclosure requirements on defendants during litigation. Please see this attached Crains op-ed urging Governor Hochul to veto this bill because of the overwhelming burden it would impose Hochul must veto burdensome insurance disclosure bill | Crain’s New York Business (crainsnewyork.com)
Please Urge Governor to Sign into Law 2 Bills to Assist Patients to Receive Needed Medications
Physicians are urged to contact Governor Hochul to request that she sign into law legislation passed at the end of the Legislative Session critical to helping patients to be able to receive the medications they need as well as to ensure greater oversight over pharmacy benefit formulary development practices. A letter or tweet can be sent from here: Urge Governor to SIGN two RX bills – Regulating PBMs and Restricting Mid-Year Formulary Changes (p2a.co)
- A.1396, Gottfried/S.3762, Breslin will provide greater accountability and transparency of the practices of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). The bill would require that PBMs be licensed by the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and adhere to standards established by DFS. The bill would also provide for the disclosure of all possible revenue streams and terms and conditions that they place on their networks of pharmacies. MSSNY has supported greater oversight and regulation of PBMs as one manner to address restrictive formularies and excessive prior authorization requirements that interfere with patients obtaining needed medications.
- A.4668, People-Stokes/S.4111, Breslin will significantly limit the ability of health insurers to move medications to higher cost-sharing tiers for their prescription drug formularies during a policy year. A substantially similar passed the Assembly and Senate in 2019, but was vetoed. To address concerns raised in the 2019 veto message, the new legislation would prohibit the applicability of a mid-year formulary change for those patients who were on the medication at the beginning of the policy year, or suffer from a condition for which the medication is part of a treatment regimen, for that condition. However, other mid-year formulary changes could still occur.
Physician Input Needed for NYSDOH COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Dose Campaign
NYS is actively planning for the COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Dose Campaign (pending FDA and CDC approvals). The NYSDOH is looking forward to extensive participation from the NYS provider community given Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply constraints no longer exist. This includes providers who did not participate in the initial COVID-19 vaccination program as well as those who did administer COVID-19 vaccine. To ensure NYS has the capacity they expect from the existing enrolled provider community, they are asking providers OUTSIDE OF NYC to please confirm your participation in the booster campaign.
If you are one of the following provider groups – you may disregard this survey:
- Providers who practice in NYC only
- Long term care facilities (nursing homes/SNFs, ACF, assisted living, senior home, adult home, OPWDD)
- Hospitals (including Inpatient Psychiatric Hospitals)
- Correctional facilities (adult and juvenile)
- Retail Chain Pharmacies
All other providers – including those who do not expect to participate in the booster campaign – please respond to the survey ASAP. It is past due, but we have kept the survey open to collect more responses. It is a short survey:
- 4 questions re: your organization (your organization is prepopulated – please check if you are on the list and complete the survey if you are!)
- 2 questions re: past administration of COVID-19 vaccine
- 4 questions re: intent and capacity to administer boosters
- 2 questions re: seasonal influenza vaccine administration
- 2 questions re: efficiencies/barriers
Here is the link to the online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/booster21.
If you are NOT CURRENTLY ENROLLED in the NYS COVID-19 Vaccination Program but are interested in administering vaccine – please go here for information regarding participating in the program.
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