Senate Moves Toward Medicare Pay Fix
By Amy Lynn Sorrel

After hundreds of physician leaders from across the country, including Texas, gathered in Washington, D.C., in mid-February, U.S. senators appear to be moving toward a Medicare pay fix alongside House efforts.   

Medicine's visits, part of the American Medical Association's annual National Advocacy Conference Feb. 12-14, were an opportunity for physicians to advocate directly to their senators and representatives to include an immediate reversal of the 3.37% Medicare pay cut as part of any budget deal and to enact sustainable solutions.   

Just prior to those visits, on Feb. 9, a group of senators announced the formation of a bipartisan Medicare payment reform working group “to explor[e] and propos[e] policy solutions for stable physician payments and necessary updates to MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act)."   

Immediately following medicine's visits, on Feb. 16, another pair of senators circulated a letter for signatures asking that chamber's leadership to address the cut, which went into effect on Jan. 1, calling it “the most important step that Congress can take to create stability in the Medicare program.”  

The moves come on the heels of two House bills seeking short- and long-term fixes, which the Texas Medical Association continued to advocate for during its Capitol Hill visits.   

"The need is urgent," TMA President Rick Snyder, MD, wrote in a Feb. 22 letter urging Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to support similar efforts in the Senate. "The concerns you’ve heard reiterated that some practices are already having to limit the number of Medicare patients they see, or the types of services they offer – especially smaller, independent practices in rural and underserved areas – are becoming an even harsher reality. TMA already has begun to receive reports of practice closures and difficulties referring Medicare patients due to the pressures of the current Medicare payment system."   

While in D.C., TMA leaders also advocated in favor of bipartisan legislation to prohibit electronic funds transfer (EFT) fees and to codify into law federal regulations on prior authorization – both efforts to cut through more layers of red tape that threaten physician practice viability and patients’ access to care at a time when practices already operate on thin margins due to pay cuts.   

Following TMA’s Capitol Hill visits, two additional Texas U.S. representatives signed on to the EFT and prior auth bills, House Resolutions 6487 and 4968, respectively.   

Get more details on TMA’s federal advocacy efforts, including one-pagers on individual issues, like EFTs and prior auth, and a Medicare toolkit with ready-made messages for social media and legislators. 

Last Updated On

February 28, 2024

Originally Published On

February 28, 2024

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Amy Lynn Sorrel

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Amy Sorrel

Amy Lynn Sorrel has covered health care policy for nearly 20 years. She got her start in Chicago after earning her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and went on to cover health care as an award-winning writer for the American Medical Association, and as an associate editor and managing editor at TMA. Amy is also passionate about health in general as a cancer survivor, avid athlete, traveler, and cook. She grew up in California and now lives in Austin with her Aggie husband and daughter.

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