Pay Cuts for Doctors Due to Pandemic

Apr 14, 2020

It might seem strange, but during this pandemic many doctors and nurses are struggling financially.  Sandy Hausman explains why and what’s being done to help them.

Doctors and nurses working in hospitals are especially busy battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but many family physicians are struggling according to Dr. Sterling Ransone, past president of the Medical Society of Virginia.

“The volume of patients through the office is what drives the revenue in most practices, and since COVID-19 volumes have gone down precipitously," he explains. "Right now I’m probably seeing a third to a half as many patients as I saw three weeks ago.”

The same is true for many specialists:

“They’re not doing elective procedures in the hospital, and because of that they don’t have follow-ups in their office, so their volumes are down too,” Ransone says.

His patients are still calling, but conversations by phone are reimbursed by insurance companies and government programs at a much lower rate than office visits.

Dr. Sterling Ransone, past president of the Medical Society of Virginia, says his small family practices is struggling due to the panemic.
Credit Sterling Ransone, MD

“They reimburse right now for video visits equal to how they reimburse us for face-to-face visits, which is fantastic.  The problem that I see is that a majority of my patients are older, and a lot of them have problems with the technology, and we have to go to a phone visit.”

The drop in revenue has led some practices to lay off physicians’ assistants and licensed practical nurses who have less training than registered nurses.

"The LPNs for a lot of systems aren’t allowed to practice nursing in the hospitals.  Same with medical assistants, so since they can’t transfer their skills to the hospital systems where we really need them, they’re being furloughed."

Now, dozens of medical associations, including the AMA and the Medical Society of Virginia, have written to the federal government requesting emergency payments equal to one month of revenue for their practices and an increase in what they’re paid for telephone visits.  

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.