MSSNYeNews: January 15, 2021 – State of State

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Governor Cuomo gave four separate speeches over the course of this past week illuminating initiatives that he believes New York State should pursue in 2021. Several topics discussed are of particular interest to physicians.

Covid-19 Vaccine

Our MSSNY shares the governor’s goal of defeating Covid-19 in 2021 and the physicians of this state stand ready to help bring this to fruition.  Practices have signed up to distribute the vaccine and many received doses this week to begin vaccinating the 1a and 1b qualified New Yorkers. Scores of individual physicians (practicing and retired) and medical students have heeded the calls to action and have signed up to help in the vaccination campaign through ServNY.

Currently, there is more capacity in the system than there are vaccines. We stand with the Governor in his call for an increase in Covid-19 vaccine supply to our state.  Hiccups continue in the vaccine roll out process and MSSNY remains in close communication with our Department of Health (DOH), communicating the issues that have been raised so that solutions can be expedited. Yesterday alone MSSNY sent communications to DOH regarding questions about eligibility under the immunocompromised 1b category, issues concerning scheduling of second doses, portal navigation issues for seniors, same household scheduling and ability to cancel appointments, among other issues. Together we will refine the process quickly and safely to achieve herd immunity.

Emergency Preparedness

MSSNY shares the Governor’s goal of Emergency Preparedness.  Our MSSNY committee on Emergency Preparedness has been active and engaged in this arena long before COVID-19. The Governor has proposed the creation of a Medical Supplies Act to ensure that New York State has the necessary personal protective equipment during a medical emergency.  MSSNY stands supportive of this concept. Medical professionals must never again be asked to risk their lives and those of their loved ones due to a lack of protective gear.


MSSNY welcomes efforts announced by the Governor to expand Telehealth coverage in 2021. The Governor and state agencies took very important steps during the pandemic to help facilitate the ability of patients to receive needed treatment in a virtual office visit.

This was an important lifeline for patients and for physician practices and has helped to significantly transform the delivery of care. MSSNY has been working with a number of different health care advocacy groups in support of legislation that would help to make permanent some of these temporary changes, as well as ensure “payment parity” for delivery of care via Telehealth. Yesterday, MSSNY signed an agreement to offer a new exciting MSSNY benefit through CareClix.  This is a telehealth platform with the ability to provide remote patient monitoring. More detailed information can be found here. To sign up, click here.

Legalization of Adult Use Marijuana

The Governor’s proposal also includes plans to legalize marijuana in New York State.  MSSNY along with other groups such as the NYSPTA, the New York State Sheriffs Association, the Mental Health Association, the New York State Association of County Health Officials, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana remain opposed.  MSSNY reiterates our concern that the public health effects of cannabis will likely outweigh any revenue the state secures by legalizing marijuana.

OPMC Due Process

While not mentioned in the State of the State message itself, the Governor issued a disturbing press release this week in which he announced a proposal for Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) “modernization that sounds similar to the proposal advanced last year in the Executive Budget. In any year, an effort to eliminate due process protections for physicians would be disheartening and demoralizing; however, in a year where physicians have been working around the clock on the front lines in every region of the State responding to the pandemic and where they have put their health and their lives at risk, it is particularly egregious to again be faced with a proposal to eliminate essential due process rights when a complaint has been filed against a physician with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. Only 2-3% of complaints filed with OPMC actually result in a disciplinary action.

MSSNY remains committed to working with the Governor and the New York State Department of Health to protect our patients by maintaining a strong disciplinary process, and addressing identified gaps.  However, we strongly oppose overbroad measures that hold serious potential to unfairly destroy a physician’s career through the release of allegations that have not been proven yet could remain easily “searchable” on the internet forever.

MSSNY stands ready to work with our Governor to ensure the health of New Yorkers in 2021 and beyond.

Bonnie Litvack, MD
MSSNY President

Capital Update

MSSNY Weekly Podcast

Join Us for MSSNY’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 2
Please plan to put aside Tuesday, March 2 for MSSNY’s Annual Physician Advocacy Day – this time Virtual!  To register, click here: Webinar Registration – Zoom

The format will follow previous years formats, where assembled physicians and allies will hear from legislative leaders in the morning (this year via Zoom), and then have virtual visits with their respective legislators in the afternoon.

With the Governor and the State Legislature needing to create tens of billions of savings to the State Budget, any number of healthcare programs of interest to physicians could be on the table, not to mention concerns with the numerous proposals to inappropriately expand the scope of practice for various non-physicians as well as numerous proposals to mandate how physicians provide care to their patients.

Please plan to join hundreds of colleagues from around the State on March 2!

Important Information for Physicians Regarding COVID-19 Vaccine
As has been widely reported and consistent with CDC recommendations, Governor Cuomo this week expanded eligibility to seven million New Yorkers, including those 65 and over, and those under 65 with immunocompromising conditions.  It is important for physicians to know that New York State is currently only receiving 300,000 doses of the vaccine a week and this has created significant wait time, with many needing to wait months to receive the vaccine based upon the anticipated supply.   

MSSNY has been in constant communication with the DOH and the Governor’s office to raise questions brought by physicians and to obtain key information for physicians to better educate their staffs and their patients. The following information was provided to MSSNY today from the Governor’s Vaccine Task Force:

  1. Second Dose Appointments: Second dose appointments must be scheduled at the time the first dose is administered. Those who receive the first dose must return to the same location to receive the second dose. It is important to send frequent reminders about when and where to receive the second dose. Individuals must receive two doses of the same vaccine (e.g., you must receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or two doses of the Moderna vaccine). They are not interchangeable.
  2. Second Doses:  Second doses will automatically be shipped to providers based on first dose allocations.  The New York State Health Department sends out information regarding the timing and quantity of second dose orders.  Please note that the boxes are not labeled as second doses and must be tracked and reserved for second dose administration ONLY.  You cannot use ANY PORTION of your second dose shipment for first doses. You must reserve all second doses and attempt to contact patients until all second doses are administered.  Entities that redistributed first doses must follow the same redistribution process for second doses to ensure all providers have the second doses they need to complete the vaccine series.
  3. Vaccine Tracker:  New York State DOH requires all facilities receiving and administering COVID-19 vaccine to submit administration and inventory data to the ‘Daily Vaccine Tracker’. Vaccine tracker information is due every day by 10 amunless a facility is closed or has zero doses on hand. The information collected is used by the State to analyze throughput for your staff and other eligible priority populations, facility specific inventory, and is the basis for determining eligibility for future allocations. Further, inaccurate reporting could slow your ability to access additional vaccine when needed. As a reminder all redistributions must be reflected in the daily tracker and no vaccine should be reallocated or redistributed between providers unless approved by the New York State Health Department and you should notify the state of any extra doses that you are unable to use during a weekly allocation period at:
  4. Vaccine Form: Each individual being vaccinated must complete the NYS Vaccine Form prior to vaccination. Executive Order 202.86 requires ALL vaccine providers to ensure individuals have completed the NYS Vaccine form and accompanying attestation that they are eligible to be vaccinated.

New York State also authorized administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to adults 65 and older and for those under 65 with a medical condition.  It is anticipated that the New York State Department of Health will issue guidance shortly on what constitutes a medical condition.  Providers are still expected to prioritize health care workers, and hospitals must continue to prioritize unvaccinated health care workers from the 1A groups, though they may vaccinate any eligible person in 1A or 1B.  Retail pharmacies or physician networks or practice groups, after vaccinating their own patient-facing staff, should only vaccinate persons over the aged 65 years or older.  Local Health Departments must prioritize the essential worker population in 1B.  A copy of the January 12, 2021 guidance can be found here.

Physicians can find additional guidance and current information from the NYS Department of Health here.

To Check Vaccine Eligibility, go here (CLANCY) 

MSSNY Raises Serious Objections with Proposal to Take Away Due Process for Physicians
MSSNY President Dr. Bonnie Litvack raised significant concerns with a 2021 proposal announced by the Governor this past Sunday that appears to be very similar to last year’s proposal to significantly reduce essential due process protections for physicians against whom a complaint has been filed with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC).  That proposal would have permitted the Commissioner of Health to publicly release information about a physician against whom a complaint has been filed with OPMC prior to the conclusion of a disciplinary proceeding despite the fact that very few complaints result in actual findings of misconduct. 

It would also give huge new powers to the Commissioner to “summarily suspend” a physician from medical practice prior to the conclusion of an investigation and disciplinary hearing.  These proposals were advanced in the 2020-21 Executive Budget but were rejected by the State Legislature in the final enacted State Budget.

Dr. Litvack’s statement noted that “It is stunning that after a year of physicians working on the front lines in every region of the State responding to the pandemic – in which many physicians themselves became very sick and some even passed away – that they are again faced with the proposal to eliminate essential due process rights when a complaint has been filed against them with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct.  When a similar proposal was advanced last year in the Executive Budget, we highlighted that very few complaints filed with the disciplinary board (roughly 2-3%) actually result in a disciplinary action.

“We remain committed to working with the Governor and the New York State Department of Health to protect our patients through maintaining a strong disciplinary process and addressing identified gaps. However, we remain extremely concerned with overbroad measures that hold serious potential to unfairly destroy a physician’s career through the release of allegations that have not been proven yet could remain easily “searchable” on the internet forever.”    (AUSTER)

Governor Cuomo Unveils Plan to Expand Telehealth Services at 2021 State of the State
At his initial State of the State address on Monday, Governor Cuomo announced plans to expand Telehealth coverage in 2021. Key proposed reforms include adjusting reimbursement incentives to encourage Telehealth, eliminating outdated regulatory prohibitions on the delivery of Telehealth, removing outdated location requirements, addressing lack of technical proficiency among both patients and providers through training programs, and establishing other policies that incentivize the use of Telehealth. However, we are awaiting further details – likely in next week’s Executive Budget proposal – as to how exactly these expansions would occur. More on the Governor’s proposals here: Click Here

The Governor and state agencies took very important steps early on in the pandemic to help provide patients needed treatment from their physicians, virtually, by removing several barriers to the receipt of care through Telehealth. This was not only an important lifeline for patients and physicians, it has also helped transform how care is delivered in New York.

MSSNY is working with a range of health care advocacy groups on passing comprehensive reform of New York’s Telehealth policies and we look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature on this critical issue. (Click Here)                        (CARY)

Keep Patient Safety Standards For Ophthalmological Care Intact!
Physicians are urged to contact their Senators to express their opposition to legislation (S.1519) before the Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday, January 19 that deviates significantly from a carefully negotiated compromise between the New York State Ophthalmological Society and the New York State Optometric Association.  Physicians can send a letter to their legislators Here. Specifically, the legislation would allow optometrists with appropriate training and oversight, to prescribe certain oral medications for the treatment of ophthalmic conditions. However, amendments made this to the legislation depart significantly from what had been negotiated between the two associations and would weaken optometrist training requirements that had been designed to ensure patient safety.

Same-as legislation (A.1921) has been introduced and referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

The bill sets a terrible precedent as it would undermine collaborative efforts among various healthcare provider types working together to expand access to care to patients while also protecting patient safety. Please urge your legislators to reject this legislation and instead urge that the bill be amended to previous versions to reflect what the groups together negotiated.        (AUSTER) 

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MSSNY Working to Reduce Administrative Burdens in Physician-Health Plan Interactions
Representatives of MSSNY and the New York Medical Group Managers Association (NYMGMA) have been participating in the Department of Financial Services Administrative Simplification Work Group.  The meetings began in November and have been occurring on a bi-weekly basis since that time.  The Work Group – consisting of representatives of physicians, hospitals, health plans, and consumer groups – have so far been working to achieve consensus on ways to reduce the unnecessary delays in credentialing physicians and other care providers to be approved to be network participating providers.  The Task Force has also begun discussing ways to reduce the excessive hassles that patients, physicians, and hospitals experience in obtaining prior authorization for needed medical care, including addressing excessive time spent waiting on the phone and excessive medical record requests.  The Work Group will continue to meet throughout the spring and summer with a report due to the State Legislature in October.                                                              (AUSTER, CARY)

State Tax Department – PPP Forgivable Loans Not Considered Income
The New York State Tax Department has issued a FAQ list to address questions many have raised regarding the NYS tax implications of various federal stimulus program.  Click Here.  Of particular note for physicians who have received a PPP loan/grant, the FAQ notes that with regard to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans, the state tax department follows the federal rule so that they are exempted from income calculation and expenses paid for with the PPP award may still continue to be deducted.  As part of the Congressional year-end Covid relief package, a provision was contained to clarify that, for federal tax purposes, expenses paid for with a PPP award could continue to be deducted as a business expense.  More on this issue here: Click Here    (AUSTER)

Regulatory Changes Allow Physicians to Prescribe Buprenorphine Without a Waiver
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will expand access to treatment for opioid use disorder by, in part, eliminating the x-waiver requirement for DEA-registered physicians. Click Here.  The American Medical Association and its Opioid Task Force strongly supported this decision and has been urging HHS to change the regulation for several years.

The Medical Society of the State of New York, is a member of the AMA Opioid Task Force and also supports this change.  The new regulations allow physicians to prescribe buprenorphine without a waiver. Buprenorphine is a highly effective medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Click Here an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made accessing care more challenging.  Read the full Click Here  Dr. Frank Dowling, secretary of the Medical Society of the State of New York and Pat Clancy, Sr. Vice President of MSSNY Public Health and Education, are the MSSNY representatives to the AMA’s Opioid Task Force.        (CLANCY)

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Registration Now Open: Veterans Matters: PTSD in Returning Veterans Webinar
Tuesday, January 26th @ 7:30 am 

The Medical Society of the State of New York is hosting a Continuing Medical Education (CME) program entitled Veterans Matters: PTSD in Returning Veterans live webinar on Tuesday, January 26, 2020 at 7:30 am.

Click HERE to register for the program! View the program flyer HERE

When:                 January 26, 2020 at 7:30 am
Faculty:               Frank Dowling, MD

Educational Objectives:

Identify diagnostic criteria for PTSD
Discuss medical and psychiatric comorbidities of military related PSTD
Discuss evidence-based treatment modalities for PTSD including medications and psychotherapy
Discuss strategies to help veterans overcome stigma to seek and accept treatment for military related trauma

For more information, contact Jangmu Sherpa at or call (518) 465-8085.

The Medical Society of the State of New York is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Medical Society of the State of New York designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

COVID-19 & Mental Health: Registration Now Open for Two CME Webinars
January 20, 2021 @ 7:30am Medical Matters: COVID-19 & Mental Health of Patients Click here to register

February 5, 2021 @ 7:30am Physician Wellness/Medical Matters COVID-19 & Mental Health of Physicians and Other Healthcare Providers Click here to register

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to countless health problems over the past year.  Not the least of which are mental health related.  Learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of patients on January 20th at 7:30am and how it has affected physicians and other healthcare workers on February 5th at 7:30am.

Dr. Craig Katz will serve as faculty for both webinars. Additional information or assistance with registration may be obtained by contacting Melissa Hoffman at

The Medical Society of the State of New York is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Medical Society of the State of New York designates each live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA/PRA Category 1 credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 


Gov. Cuomo Updates on State’s Progress During Covid-19 Pandemic
Jan 14 6:30 PM data is summarized briefly below:

  • Test Results Reported – 212,589
  • Total Positive – 13,661
  • Percent Positive – 6.42%
  • Patient Hospitalization – 8,823 (-106)
  • Patients Newly Admitted – 1,120
  • Hospital Counties – 56
  • Number ICU – 1,536 (+35)
  • Number ICU with Intubation – 956 (+32)
  • Total Discharges – 112,979 (+956)
  • Deaths – 202
  • Total Deaths – 32,379
  • Each region’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:





Capital Region




Central New York




Finger Lakes




Long Island








Mohawk Valley




New York City




North Country




Southern Tier




Western New York








  • Total hospitalizations fell to 8,823. Of the 212,589 tests reported yesterday, 13,661, or 6.42 percent, were positive. There were 1,536 patients in ICU yesterday, up 35 from the previous day. Of them, 956 are intubated. Sadly, we lost 202 New Yorkers to the virus.
  • New State-run vaccination sites are coming soon. Today the first vaccinations began at a drive-thru vaccination site at Jones Beach on Long Island. More sites will come online shortly, including sites in Buffalo, Rochester, and Plattsburgh. All vaccination sites are by appointment only. For New York State-run sites, if you are eligible you can make an appointment at gov/vaccine if there are appointments available.
  • The Finger Lakes has the highest rate of COVID hospitalizations by population. There are 830 hospitalizations in the Finger Lakes, which represents 0.07 percent of the region’s population. The Capital Region has 520 hospitalizations (0.05 percent); Central New York has 323 hospitalizations (0.04 percent); Long Island has 1,658 hospitalizations (0.06 percent); the Mid-Hudson Region has 1,015 hospitalizations (0.04 percent); Mohawk Valley has 309 hospitalizations (0.06 percent); New York City has 3,292 hospitalizations (0.04 percent); Southern Tier has 249 hospitalizations (0.04 percent); and Western New York has 517 hospitalizations (0.04 percent of its population). The North Country, with 110 hospitalizations (0.03 percent), has the lowest rate of hospitalizations due to COVID.
  • New York has conducted over 28 million tests to date. Getting tested regularly is a good way to help ensure your health and the health of those around you. If you are experiencing COVID symptoms or believe you may have been exposed to someone positive for COVID, get tested. Find a testing site near you. You can also call 1-888-364-3065 to make a free appointment at a New York State-run testing location.

Council Notes-January 14
Council approved the following:

  • Recommendations for Lowering Healthcare Costs: MSSNY will continue to work with the AMA to advocate for measures that help reduce healthcare costs and to more fully educate legislators, the media, and the public of data showing that spending on physician services represents only a small component of overall healthcare costs.
  • Office of Professional Medical Conduct Reform: MSSNY will continue to support the right of physicians who have been the subject of a disciplinary procedure, based on information that was knowingly false when the complaint was filed, to be able to sue the parties responsible for that false information; and will continue to oppose legislation that would permit the public release of complaints to the OPMC where the complaint allegations have not resulted in a determination of misconduct.
  • Piloting Use of Financial Incentives to Reduce Unnecessary Emergency Room Visits: MSSNY will introduce a resolution asking the AMA to study and report on the positive and negative experiences of programs in various states that provide Medicaid beneficiaries with incentives for choosing alternative sites of care, instead of hospital emergency departments when it is appropriate to their symptoms and/or condition.
  • Physician Assistance Parity with Lawyers: MSSNY will continue its development and rollout of a program that provides confidential peer-to-peer support for physicians, medical residents, and medical students and will continue to seek legislation or regulation to ensure confidentiality and non-discoverability for both the trained peer and physician or student seeking assistance in peer-to-peer interactions.
  • Addressing the Adverse Health Effects of Climate Change in New York State: Recommendations for Protecting New Yorkers’ Health and Safety from Global Warming and Climate Instability paper was presented by MSSNY’s Preventive Medicine and Family Health Committee and approved by Council.

MLMIC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lombardo announced a new Preferred Savings Program for New York physicians who qualify. Contact Lori Hertz at for more information.

An in-person House of Delegates meeting is planned for September 18, tentatively in Saratoga. MSSNY Speakers will send a letter on the 26th of each month with updates on the HOD. March 31 is the deadline for resolutions that will be referred to the AMA; June 25 is the deadline for MSSNY HOD resolutions.

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NY County Physician’s Response to WSJ Editorial on Doctor Shortage
How to Address the Doctor Shortage

Regarding your editorial “Congress’s Doctor Shortage” (Jan. 5): The government’s micromanagement of health care has had many unintended consequences. Spending $900 million to add 1,000 post-graduate medical-education slots seems excessive. That is $900,000 per slot or over three times the four-year tuition costs of medical school. Graduate medical education (GME) has mostly been hospital based while medical care is increasingly provided outside the hospital setting. Restructuring graduate medical education by increasing the focus on community-based care and ambulatory-based surgery to supplement hospital-based care would result in a more cost-effective method for achieving this goal.

The second problem of health-care consolidation has been a result of obsolete antitrust laws that encourage health-care consolidation resulting in less competition. As far back as 2010 a report by the attorney general of Massachusetts found up to a 300% difference in costs based on bargaining power and not quality. Consolidation raises prices. We need greater flexibility in our antitrust laws to foster and preserve competition.

Physician substitutes including physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners can often provide adequate but not equivalent care to board-certified physicians. If these substitutes were in fact equivalent, we should stop spending time and money educating physicians.

Approximately one-third of practicing physicians are over the age of 60 and more likely to retire. COVID-19 has accelerated retirements for two reasons: Many older physicians who are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 have reduced or stopped seeing patients. As physicians age, many continue to enjoy practicing but at a reduced practice load. The further reduction in practice volume, elective procedures and elective surgery since COVID-19 is making these smaller practices unprofitable. Earlier retirement by older physicians will lead to physician shortages sooner than has been previously estimated.

Michael T. Goldstein, M.D., J.D.

The New York Society of Addiction Medicine Invites You to A Webinar
“Expanding Use of Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment in New York’s Jails and Prison”

When:     Wednesday January 20th, 2021 at 7:30-8:45 pm

Join   :

Costs :   Free (requires pre-registration)


Kevin Fiscella, MD MPH, Professor, Dept of Family Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center
Jill Harrington, RN BSN CCHP-RN, Health Services Administrator, Albany County Correctional Facility
Jasdeep Mangat, MD, Medical Director, Substance Use Treatment, Correctional Health Services (New York City)
John Morley, MD, Chief Medical Office, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

In the two weeks following their release, people coming home from prison are 129 times more likely to die from a drug overdose than the general population. We have known this for years, but people across New York State are working to change this!

Please join us to learn about the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s policy statement on “Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder in Correctional Settings” and the progress being made in New York State to expand access to life-saving medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in jails and prisons.

Aaron Fox
Chair, Policy and Advocacy Committee
New York Society of Addiction Medicine

Palliative Care Linked to A 10% Drop in ICU Use for Terminal Patients
Offering palliative care services to patients with terminal conditions can help reduce their use of the intensive care unit, a study published in JAMA Network Open shows.

Researchers studied 51 hospitals in New York that either did or did not implement a palliative care program between 2008 and 2014. They examined data for 73,370 patients who died during their hospitalizations. Of the total number of patients included in the study, 51.3 percent received care in hospitals that implemented palliative care services, and 48.7 percent received care in a hospital that did not.

Researchers found that patients who received the palliative care services were less likely to be admitted to the ICU than patients admitted to the same hospitals before the palliative care program was implemented. The implementation of palliative care programs was associated with a 10 percent reduction in ICU use during hospitalizations where the patients died, compared to hospitals that did not implement palliative care services.

MSSNY – Medicare Part B 2021 Important Update from Anthem
When: Friday, January 22, 2021 12:00 – 2:00 PM EST

The MSSNY will be partnering with National Government Services to conduct a webinar on important changes for the Medicare Program in 2021.

Agenda Topics to include:

  • COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE)
  • Telehealth
  • Evaluation & Management coding Changes in CY2021
  • 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS)
  • Final Policy, Payment, and Quality Provisions Changes to the MPFS for Calendar Year 2021
  • Quality Payment Program
  • Contact Information/Resources

James D. Bavoso
Provider Outreach & Education, Manager

National Government Services
Office: (718) 351-2098| Fax: (315) 442-4103 | | |

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CDC: Cases Among Younger Children Remains Low Even After Schools Reopen
A new CDC report “found that COVID-19 cases among younger children remained low even after schools restarted for in-person learning. To safely reopen schools, however, transmission in communities must be kept in check.” The report, “published Wednesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, considered more than 2.8 million laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in people ages zero to 24 from March 1 through December 12.”

Minority Health Institute and UCLA BRITE Center

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlights Importance of Cyber Insurance
By Kathleen Sellers, JD, CLU©
Vice President, Charles J. Sellers & Co., Inc.

In addition to all the other challenges that businesses have faced in 2020, cybercrime has been increasing, as cyber criminals have exploited vulnerabilities created by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The pandemic has changed how many businesses, including medical practices, do business.

More people are working from home, using home networks and sometimes personal devices, which tend to be less secure than dedicated office networks and equipment.
We are all increasingly reliant on online communication tools, with people working from different locations and some face-to-face interactions limited.  The use of telehealth services has grown exponentially since the pandemic started.  All of these changes – resulting in more business taking place online — translate into new opportunities for bad cyber actors.

Some of these bad actors are taking advantage of pandemic-related anxiety, sending emails in which they pretend to be from a health authority like the CDC, or from a government loan program.  The most common cyber threat that businesses face continues to be ransomware attacks, which are increasing in number and severity.  In a ransomware attack, a cybercriminal introduces malicious software that blocks access to a computer system and demands a ransom for unblocking it.  According to an insurance industry study, ransomware attacks grew by nearly 50 percent in the second quarter of 2020 (after the pandemic began) as compared to the first quarter.[1]  The amount of ransom demands is increasing, as is the average length of time it takes for a business to restore its systems and resume operations.

Healthcare businesses are a particular target during the pandemic.  In October 2020, a Joint Cybersecurity Advisory was issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) titled “Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare and Public Health Sector.”[2]  The advisory alerted the healthcare sector to “tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by cybercriminals against targets in the Healthcare and Public Health Sector (HPH) to infect systems with ransomware, notably Ryuk and Conti, for financial gain.”  While ransomware attacks against large hospital systems, health insurers, and public health entities grab headlines, medical practices of all sizes are at risk as well.

There are many steps that a business can take to improve its security, including stepping up employee training, hardening IT defenses, and implementing security patches on a timely basis.  It’s also an important time to purchase cyber insurance, if it isn’t already in place, and to review cyber coverage, if it is.  (In a recent survey by Travelers Insurance, 51% of businesses surveyed reported having purchased a cyber insurance policy.[3])  Cyber insurance packages together a broad range of coverages, including:

  • Coverage for business interruption losses arising from a computer network outage
  • Cybercrime coverage, covering losses from social engineering, phishing, and other types of financial fraud
  • Cyber extortion and ransomware coverage, including coverage for payment of a ransom demand
  • Coverage for third party claims alleging legal liability for damages related to a cyber event
  • Breach response and remediation expenses, including the cost to notify individuals affected by a breach, along with IT and attorney costs incurred to investigate and remediate a breach

The terms of cyber insurance policies can vary, so it’s important to consult with an agent or broker who’s knowledgeable about the coverage, and who can help you select coverages and limits that properly address the risks that a particular business faces.  Most cyber insurance policies also provide pre-loss mitigation services, to help avoid or mitigate a cyber event, at no or reduced cost, such as employee training or identification of network vulnerabilities.  In addition to reviewing the types of coverage offered, it’s important to review coverage limits in light of the business’s particular circumstances.

Cyber insurance, which has become increasingly important in recent years, is now more critical to have than ever, with changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.  All businesses, and healthcare businesses, need to review their cyber insurance coverage, so that if a cyber incident occurs, the right resources are available to restore operations and minimize financial loss.

[1] Frequency of Cyber Events Targeting Businesses Increasing: Travelers, Insurance Journal, Dec. 11, 2020.

[2] Joint Cybersecurity Advisory – AA20-302A – Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare and Public Health Sector (

[3] Frequency of Cyber Events Targeting Businesses Increasing: Travelers, Insurance Journal, Dec. 11, 2020



Physician & Other Healthcare Jobs. P/T & F/T – Check Us Out

Unique Rheumatology Practice Opportunity – Great Neck, NY
Partnership opportunity available at an established rheumatology practice in Great Neck, NY. Looking for a dedicated physician to join our practice or merge practices. Contact 516-972-2986 / for more info.