Federal lawmakers must hold hearings immediately to stop proposed changes to Medicare that would cause lasting and serious damage to the program and to health care in the United States, Texas Medical Association President Douglas Curran, MD, told two key Texas congressmen today.
“On behalf of the more than 51,000 physician and medical student members of [TMA] and the millions of Texans we serve, I am writing to request your personal intervention to stop the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enacting lasting and serious damage to the Medicare program,” Dr. Curran wrote to U.S. Reps. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; and Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), chair of the House Health Subcommittee.
CMS in July unveiled a massive package of proposed new rules, including an update to the 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and revisions to the Quality Payment Program (QPP). CMS’ proposal also would collapse the five levels of evaluation and management office-visit payments to two levels, with one payment rate for level 1 visits and another covering levels 2-5.
CMS has said its proposed changes would reduce paperwork and allow physicians to spend more time with patients. However, TMA believes the changes would have the opposite effect.
“Given the sweeping and overwhelmingly negative impact of the proposed rule — and given the crushing, existing administrative burden that it fails to relieve — we fear that physicians will abandon the Medicare program en masse or severely limit their Medicare patient loads,” Dr. Curran’s letter says.
“To prevent this train wreck in our state’s Medicare health care system, please hold hearings as quickly as possible.”
The agency, he said, is “off the rails,” and lawmakers must act quickly to reestablish “what you had in mind when you wrote and passed legislation to strengthen and improve Medicare.”
CMS plans to publish the final rule on or about Nov. 1. Over the past six weeks, TMA physicians and staff experts have analyzed the proposed rule, identifying its weaknesses and formulating constructive recommendations for change. TMA submitted a letter with 75 substantive recommendations to CMS earlier this week.
TMA also delivered Dr. Curran’s letter to the rest of the Texas Congressional Delegation: U.S. Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II, and CMS Administrator Seema Verma.