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  • Writer's pictureAssociation of Academic Physiatrists

Congress Holds Hearing on Equity Gaps for Disabled

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on February 3, 2022 entitled “Bridging Health Equity Gaps for People with Disabilities and Chronic Conditions.” The hearing was called to bring attention to the fact that there are numerous barriers faced by people with disabilities in accessing the care and support they need. Testimony from Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez from the Dept. of Rehabilitation Medicine at UT Health San Antonio highlighted the impact of Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection or “Long COVID.”

Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez stated, “People with disabilities, especially those needing assistance and living in care facilities, are at increased risks during pandemics because of disruption of routine and long-term care. Physiatrists work with patients who experience health and healthcare disparities due to an intersection of race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, and physical and cognitive disabilities.” Furthermore, Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez testified, “the needs of persons with Long COVID are already spreading far beyond the clinical sphere, as patients face difficulties in returning to work, receiving necessary workplace accommodations, and accessing Social Security disability insurance and other benefits.” She called on the Administration and Congress to develop a comprehensive federal plan to defeat the national Long COVID crisis. Her complete testimony can be found here.

House and Senate leaders have agreed on a bipartisan, bicameral framework to allow appropriators to draft an FY 2022 omnibus-spending bill to fund the government for FY 2022. Congress has been working under a continuing resolution (CR) which is set to expire on March 11 and has been funding programs at FY 2021 levels. AAP has joined with the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to urge Congress to work swiftly to finalize a FY 2022 appropriations package and include at least $46.4 billion in base funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In its Final Rule for the CY 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, CMS finalized revisions to improve coverage for pulmonary rehabilitation for COVID-19 patients and removed the pulmonary rehabilitation requirement for direct physician-patient contact. Effective January 1, 2022 CMS is now covering pulmonary rehabilitation for people who have had confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and experience persistent symptoms that include respiratory dysfunction for at least four weeks. This goes beyond CMS’ PFS proposed rule, which would have focused the expanded coverage to those hospitalized with COVID-19. CMS also finalized a temporary extension of certain cardiac and intensive cardiac rehabilitation services available via telehealth for people with Medicare until the end of December 2023.

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