Medicare trustees warn of access threat, CMA urges H.R. 2474 passage

May 08, 2024
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy 

A report released by the Medicare trustees on Monday warned that the failure of Medicare to provide physician payments that keep pace with rising cost of practicing medicine could cause significant access to care issues for patients relying on the program.

The Medicare Trustees Report noted that physicians have experienced a payment reduction and that current reimbursement rates do not adequately account for underlying economic conditions – such as inflation – nor do they keep pace with the high cost of practicing medicine, which has gone up 4.6% in 2024, according to the Medicare Economic Index.

“Absent a change in the delivery system or level of update by subsequent legislation, the Trustees expect access to Medicare-participating physicians to become a significant issue in the long term,” the report warned.

To address the issues called out in the report, the California Medical Association (CMA) is urging Congress to pass H.R. 2474, which would provide an annual inflation update to Medicare physician payments and protect patient access to care.

“The Medicare Trustees Report confirms what physicians and patients have been experiencing and emphasizing to Congress," stated CMA President Tanya W. Spirtos. "The unsustainable Medicare payment rates that fail to cover the cost of care and keep pace with inflation, are forcing physicians to stop seeing Medicare patients. By passing H.R. 2474, the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act, Congress can finally address the broken Medicare payment structure and ensure patients get the access to care they need and deserve.”

The Medicare Trustee report underscores what CMA and AMA have been telling Congress

CMA and the American Medical Association (AMA) have been sounding the alarm to Congress for the last several years that Medicare payment does not cover a physician’s cost to provide care, nor does it keep pace with inflation.

“The momentum for change is evident. Yet, physicians – battered by the Change cyberattack, Covid, and climbing costs of operating a practice – have yet to see a response equal to the moment,” said AMA President Jesse Ehrenfeld. “Instead, physicians saw a 2 percent cut in Medicare payments in 2023 and nearly 2 percent in 2024.”

For the fourth straight year, physicians participating in Medicare have experienced a payment cut. Coupled with medical inflation, physicians will experience a devastating 6% cut in 2024. And since 2001, physician fees have declined by 29%, adjusted for inflation, while other Medicare providers received 60% increases during the same time.

A CMA physician survey found that two-thirds of respondents said Medicare payments do not cover their costs to provide care, with the result that nearly half are planning to retire early, and 70% are limiting the number of Medicare patients they can treat. And in many California communities, no primary care physicians can accept new Medicare patients.


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