Congressional Members Support Halt to Medicare Cuts
By Joey Berlin


 US_Capitol

Two physician members of Congress are echoing the Texas Medical Association’s call for lawmakers to stop pending Medicare physician pay cuts totaling nearly 10%, and their push has the support of hundreds of members of the House of Representatives. 

 

Saying the reductions “will strain our health care system and jeopardize patient access to medically necessary services,” Reps. Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.), and Larry Bucshon, MD (R-Ind.), urged avoidance of the cuts in favor of “broader, long-term" Medicare reforms in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). 

More than 200 other House members added their signatures to the letter, including the two Texas physicians in Congress: Reps. Michael C. Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), and Ronny L. Jackson, MD (R-Amarillo). 

The letter from Representatives Bera and Bucshon noted that the Medicare physician fee schedule has not kept up with inflation, and larger pay increases “must be offset by cuts to other providers, even if there’s no evidence of overpayment, due to a budget neutrality provision in statute, further contributing to the financial pressure on health care professionals.” 

The three pending cuts include: 

  • A 3.75% reduction to the 2022 Medicare physician fee schedule conversion factor, a multiplier that’s part of the calculations for payment rates for a particular service; 

  • A 2% across-the-board cut known as sequestration, which Congress has delayed several times before and during the pandemic; and 

  • An additional 4% sequestration cut resulting from the American Rescue Plan Act, because that COVID-19 relief law’s price tag also surpassed a threshold in federal law meant to rein in deficit spending. 

 

The letter warned Reps. Pelosi and McCarthy that if Congress doesn’t avert the cuts, “the profound exhaustion from the pandemic combined with the stress of uncertainty in payments may lead to further retirements, office closures, or reduced staffing, ultimately limiting patient access to care.” 

TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD, said she appreciates “every single one of those names on that letter.”   

“I’m hoping now, in conjunction with the amazing advocacy efforts on the part of TMA members to our legislators in Congress, that … we can [show that] we are in partnership and totally agree in making sure we protect our patients – their constituents,” she said. 

As TMA continues its push to stop the cuts, you can add your voice to the chorus by downloading TMA’s latest advocacy toolkit, “Medicare Cuts: Insult Upon Injury,” complete with background information on the issue, social media posts, and advocacy messages you can readily use to share your concerns with lawmakers and others. 

Last Updated On

November 02, 2021

Originally Published On

November 01, 2021

Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

(512) 370-1393
JoeyBerlinSQ

Joey Berlin is associate editor of Texas Medicine. His previous work includes stints as a reporter and editor for various newspapers and publishing companies, and he’s covered everything from hard news to sports to workers’ compensation. Joey grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. He lives in Austin.

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