Atrium Health CEO on how Congress can help providers bounce back from COVID-19

Atrium Health president and CEO Gene Woods appealed to a Senate panel for continued financial support for healthcare providers during the pandemic, permanent coverage for telemedicine services and reinvestment in public health to combat COVID-19 and address racial health disparities. 

Mr. Woods, who has helmed the Charlotte, N.C.-based health system since 2016, testified July 21 before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on behalf of Atrium's 70,000-member workforce.

A few key points from his testimony:

1. Mr. Woods urged lawmakers to support Medicare Advanced Payment loan forgiveness as part of the next COVID-19 relief package. He said: "Allowing providers to retain funds which have already been deployed is a straightforward way to keep the healthcare infrastructure solvent in this emergency period."

2. Mr. Woods called on lawmakers to reinvest in public health by supporting a national testing supply registry. He said Atrium can process more than 4,000 COVID-19 tests per day in its in-house lab, but the health system's output has been restricted by international shortages of reagents and specialized plastics needed for testing. A national registry could reveal where supplies are being deployed and allow public health experts to allocate testing supplies to providers that need them most, he said. 

3. He recommended permanent coverage for telemedicine services because he sees it as essential to healthcare access during the pandemic. Mr. Woods said the decision by CMS to cover virtual care in parity with traditional settings has allowed Atrium to continue caring for patients during the pandemic, and he urged lawmakers to maintain Medicare coverage and payment parity telemedicine policies beyond this national crisis.

Other recommendations by Mr. Woods include ensuring the U.S. is prepared for mass vaccinations; providing Medicare and Medicaid payment for interpreter and translator services; and conducting data analytics that will help address health disparities in communities.

Listen to his full testimony here


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