September 28, 2020
As the country’s physicians continue to fight on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is scheduled to cut Medicare payments by double digits starting January 1, 2021. The California Medical Association (CMA) is urging all physicians to contact their members of Congress to tell them that this is unacceptable. Payment cuts of this magnitude will surely strain a health care system that is already stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic and could jeopardize patient access to medically necessary services.
The cuts are the result of the new payment policies contained in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2021. While the changes have many positive attributes—including improvements for maternity care and much-needed payment increases for physicians delivering primary and complex office-based care to some of our nation’s most vulnerable patients—there is a cost.
CMS operates under a statutory “budget neutrality” rule that requires any increases in Medicare payments for these office visits to be offset by corresponding decreases. As a result, many physicians now face substantial cuts beginning on January 1, 2021, if Congress does not act before the end of the year.
CMA's Physician Financial Health Survey found that physician practices have experienced an average 64% decline in revenue and 95% are worried about their financial health and ability to remain in practice. While many physicians cannot get PPE, COVID-related costs have increased 30%. Nearly 50% of physicians have furloughed staff. Physicians not only contribute to the health and well-being of our communities, but they are also important employers, contributing 1.2 million jobs in California. These Medicare cuts will negatively impact entire communities.
In order to safeguard Medicare patients’ access to care during this pandemic, we ask you to contact your member of Congress NOW and urge them to sign on to the bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter on the issue being circulated by physician Congressmen Ami Bera (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (R-CA) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN)
Health care professionals across the spectrum are reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 emergency as they continue to serve patients during this global pandemic and now is certainly not the time to cut physician payments.