American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Federal and State Legislative and Regulatory Activities

ACS Sends Letters to Congress on COVID-19

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) organized a letter March 19 to Congress along with 21 surgical coalition members. The letter asks for a number of items to be included in the COVID package that is Congress is negotiating. In addition to the surgical coalition letter, the ACS sent another letter to Congress yesterday on the same topic.

U.S. Congress Temporarily Waive Telehealth Restrictions

The president March 6 signed into law the first of three spending bills intended to fund the federal government’s response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The legislation includes provisions that grant the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with the authority to temporarily ease restrictions around telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, including: lifting the rural and geographic requirements to provide and receive telehealth services, waiving federal requirements that physicians and health professionals be licensed in the state in which they are providing services if they have an equivalent license in another state, and loosening restrictions on the use of telephones to deliver care.

The Secretary of HHS has temporarily activated the provisions regarding telehealth to increase access by Medicare beneficiaries, but only while the COVID-19 public health emergency is in place. For more information regarding telehealth or health information technology, contact Amelia Suermann, American College of Surgeons Congressional Lobbyist, at

COVID Response Brings Attention to Good Samaritan Laws

Reps. Raul Ruiz, MD (D-CA), and Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN), last week introduced the House companion to The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act. Federal and state Good Samaritan laws provide some civil liability protections for volunteer health care providers, but only if they are licensed in the state where the services are provided. This will leave many health care professional volunteers who provide care in other states without Good Samaritan protections. Without federal intervention, these states cannot address the gaps in Good Samaritan laws to protect providers from out of state. The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act (S.1350/H.R. 6283) provides certainty by extending federal Good Samaritan civil liability protections (equivalent to the protections found in the federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 and many state laws) to interstate volunteers who are licensed in their home state.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS), along with various provider groups, are advocating for the inclusion of this legislation as part of the response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic to ensure providers can assist where the need is the greatest.

Read the ACS letter of support. For more information or question on medical liability reform efforts, contact Hannah Chargin, Congressional Lobbyist,

States Respond to COVID-19

State and local officials have been working overtime to address the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. From governors, to public health departments, to state legislatures and local municipalities, all legislators and policymakers are responding and making the tough decisions. Surgeons who are interested in what may be happening at the state and local level regarding medical licensure/telemedicine, emergency declarations, legislative actions, and state health department initiatives should consider the following online resources:

New Billing Processes Established for COVID-19 Testing

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued two new Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes to help track testing related to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and standardize reporting and reimbursement for such tests offered by hospitals, health systems and laboratories across the country. Beginning April 1, providers can bill Medicare and other payors for the administration of tests developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for dates of service on or after February 4 using HCPCS code U0001. Providers performing non-CDC laboratory rests for COVID-19 can bill for them using HCPCS code U0002.

To further streamline billing processes and ensure proper payment for COVID-19 testing, the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Editorial Panel issued CPT code 87635 (Infectious agent detection by nucleic acid (DNA or RNA); severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]), amplified probe technique), which may be submitted on claims for services furnished on or after March 13. Providers are encouraged to contact payors to determine their guidelines regarding applicability for retroactive billing and payment for this code.

HCPCS and CPT codes should not both be reported on the same claim, and the appropriate code to be reported is dependent upon the billing requirements of the payor to which the claim is being submitted. More information about each code can be found on the CMS and CPT Editorial Panel websites. Contact Lauren Foe, Senior Regulatory Associate, at with questions.