The Texas Medical Association is calling on Texas’ federal lawmakers to support a measure that would prevent Medicare from cutting payments to certain specialties for a year.
In a letter sent Oct. 26, TMA called for passage of a bill that would require at least a one-year waiver of budget neutrality adjustments, which were part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed 2021 Medicare physician fee schedule, released in August.
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville) introduced the bill earlier this month.
“The current system is designed so that when one specialty is paid appropriately for medical services rendered, others must be penalized,” TMA’s letter says. “This has been an ongoing problem since the budget-neutrality clause was enacted.”
Although the proposed fee schedule would increase office visit payments, it would cut the 2021 Medicare conversion factor by 11%, which would cause a payment decrease for many physicians, TMA’s letter says.
“The budget-neutrality clause requires CMS to decrease the conversion factor to offset any increase in payments. This offset will cause irreparable harm to both physicians and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic,” TMA said.
The letter echoes comments TMA sent to CMS earlier this month objecting to a number of proposed changes in the 2021 physician fee schedule.
Suspending the budget-neutrality requirement for a year would be particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when physicians have struggled with decreased patient visits and revenue.
For example, 63% of respondents to TMA’s May 2020 Practice Viability Survey reported a drop in revenue of 50% or more as a result of the pandemic, and 62% reported cuts in physician salaries.
“It is plain to see that physicians are hurting. And therefore it is imperative they are not further penalized by the 11% cut due to the budget neutrality clause,” TMA’s letter says.
CMS’ is expected to release its final 2021 fee schedule rule by Dec. 1.