SCAI has launched a grassroots campaign asking its members to contact their Members of Congress by October 13th and urge them to support the Bera-Bucshon letter. The bipartisan letter to Congressional leadership asks Congress to address the imminent payment cuts facing physicians and stabilize the payments system.
U.S. House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) recently pledged to work with lawmakers from both parties moving forward to prevent physician pay cuts. Chairman Pallone said, “now is not the time to act given that CMS just received comments on its proposed 2022 fee schedule.” Members of Congress from both parties have said that they want to eventually stop the cuts, but Energy & Commerce Democrats recently rejected a GOP bid to add a pay fix to the emerging budget reconciliation bill.
At the same time, SCAI, numerous other physician organizations, and some lawmakers have pressed CMS to stop the proposed Medicare cuts. Estimates related to the CMS proposed Medicare Fee Schedule suggest that certain physicians could be experiencing an almost 10% cut just from the CMS proposed rule alone. Additional pay cuts are expected in CY 2022, due to a variety of policies, such as the end of the sequester moratorium to a phase-in of certain cuts tied to changes to evaluation and management pay under the physician fee schedule and changes to clinical labor policies under the proposed 2022 physician fee schedule, also threaten physician practices and their patients.
Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R-Ind.) said recently that the Energy & Commerce reconciliation markup essentially ignores the fact that some physicians could see a substantial cut in 2022. He called for an amendment to extend, for a year, the 3.75% payment adjustment that Congress put in place last year to ease cuts tied to changes to evaluation and management pay policies. Rep. Buschon, has reminded lawmakers that this is not a partisan issue. He said that he, along with Rep. Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.), is leading the effort to postpone these cuts. While Bucshon’s amendment was defeated, Pallone said he hoped to find a bipartisan solution in the future.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) raised similar concerns at a House Ways & Means Committee markup. He talked about his concerns related to a movement to add more providers to a Medicare payment system that is already unstable. He also pointed to the looming physician pay cuts. House Ways & Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said he would work with Wenstrup on the physician payment issue.
A draft letter to congressional leadership spearheaded by Bera and Bucshon states, “a short-term fix is needed to deal with payment instability while a longer-term solution for the Medicare payment system for providers is found. We believe broad systemic reforms to the payment system are critical to speed the transition to value-based care. However, as Congress begins the complex process of identifying and considering potential long-term reforms, we must also create stability by addressing the immediate payment cuts facing health care professionals. These cuts will strain our health care system and jeopardize patient access to medically necessary services,” a draft of the letter says.
SCAI recently asked members to support Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) in their effort to have their colleagues add their name to a letter signed by more than 75 lawmakers sent directly to CMS urging the agency not to move forward with their proposed changes to the clinical labor policy in the proposed 2022 physician fee schedule. This proposed change is estimated to lead to up to 20% cuts for certain health care providers including some interventional cardiologists. The lawmakers raised concerns in particular with the budget-neutral nature of CMS’ proposed changes — though the agency can’t change the budget-neutral aspect of the rule. “Considering that the second-order negative effects of PFS ‘budget neutrality’ strongly outweigh incorporating new clinical labor data, we strongly recommend CMS not finalize the clinical labor policy at this time in the 2022 PFS Final Rule,” the lawmakers said. They also urged CMS to work with them to avoid the 3.75% cut that would come from phasing in the reductions tied to changes to evaluation and management pay changes. “Moreover, considering PFS ‘budget neutrality’ effects from the 2021 PFS Final Rule E/M policy are still causing negative impacts in the form of a scheduled 3.75 percent cut to the conversion factor in 2022, we urge you to work with Congress on fundamental reform to the PFS in order that we may better address the upcoming 3.75 percent cut in legislation later this year.”
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