Congress passes bill to stop Medicare payment cuts; President expected to sign

December 14, 2021

The U.S. Senate last week voted to stop nearly all of the Medicare payment cuts physicians were facing on January 1, 2022.  The legislation – which includes provisions to increase the debt ceiling – is a must-pass bill for Congress and the nation. President Biden is expected to sign the bill before the debt ceiling deadline of December 18, 2021. 

The California Medical Association (CMA) deeply appreciates the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Alex Padilla, and the California Congressional Delegation.

The legislation – passed by both houses of Congress – increases physician payments by 3% in 2022 to offset most of the 3.75% fee schedule cuts due to budget neutrality adjustments, stops the inadvertent 4% statutory “pay as you go” budget neutrality sequester resulting from the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, extends waiver of 2% sequestration cut until April 1,  2022, and then waives 1% of the cut until July 1, 2022.

Physician practices are still recovering from the emotional and financial impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency. If left unchecked these cuts could cause a serious disruption in patient access to care.

The legislation also delays for one year the Medicare Radiation Oncology Payment Model, the Medicare clinical laboratory payment cuts, and the private payor payment reporting requirements.

CMA, the American Medical Association (AMA) and all of organized medicine must come together next year to propose proactive legislative reforms to the Medicare payment system to provide annual payment updates to keep pace with rising costs, eliminate unnecessary and harmful budget neutrality cuts, and promote physician-led alternative payment models.   

“There is no need to wait for the last minute to start working on the systemic problems. These automatic cuts should remind members of the needed reforms,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “Congress can get a head start on doing the right thing when it reconvenes early next year.”


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