June 27, 2023
At the annual meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s physicians called for a multipronged campaign to overhaul the outdated Medicare payment system, saying that patient access and survival of practices are at risk. Physicians from across the country spoke of their intense frustration with the flawed payment formula and the need for Congress to fix it.
“This cannot wait; we are past the breaking point. Congress must urgently address physician concerns about Medicare to account for inflation and the post-pandemic economic reality facing practices nationwide. Our patients are counting on us to deliver the message that access to health care is jeopardized by Medicare’s payment system. Being mad isn’t enough. We will develop a campaign – targeted and grass roots – that will drive home our message,” said AMA’s outgoing President, San Francisco dermatologist Jack Resneck Jr., M.D.
In the face of inflation, the COVID pandemic, and growing costs of running a medical practice, physicians have struggled to keep open their doors, jeopardizing access to care. Not only have Medicare payments failed to respond, but physicians saw a 2% payment reduction for 2023, creating an additional challenge at a perilous moment. Physicians are one of the only Medicare providers without an inflationary payment update.
When adjusted for inflation, Medicare physician payment has effectively declined 26% from 2001 to 2023. These increasingly thin or negative operating margins disproportionately affect small, independent, and rural physician practices, as well as those treating low-income or other historically minoritized or marginalized patient communities.
“We are deeply worried that many practices will be forced to stop taking new Medicare patients – at a time when access to care is already inadequate. Physicians have diagnosed the problem and are offering solutions, but obviously the body politic must respond,” said Dr. Resneck. “Duct-taping the widening cracks of a dilapidated payment system has put us in this precarious situation. Physicians are united in our determination to build a solid foundation rather than further jury-rigging the system.”
For more highlights from the AMA annual meeting, click here.