Patient care under continued threat in proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule

Patient care under continued threat in proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule

Surgical Care Coalition urges Congress to address systemic challenges to stop the annual reductions in patient care

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2021 – The proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for calendar year 2022 (CY2022) released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) fails to address pending cuts to surgical care and therefore continues to threaten patient care by reaffirming these previously imposed misguided cuts, argues the Surgical Care Coalition.

CMS is proposing to cut the Medicare conversion factor—the basic starting point for calculating Medicare payments—for CY2022 by 3.75%. This year’s cut is reinstating the cut that Congress prevented last year, which further emphasizes the need for continued congressional intervention to protect patient care.

Updates to the conversion factor have failed to keep up with inflation. The result is that the conversion factor is only about 50% of what it would have been if it had been indexed to general inflation as it had been prior to 1998.

“While CMS is taking notable strides to improve health equity and access to care, today’s proposed rule maintains the cuts to surgical care that Congress stopped last year. These cuts harm the care patients need and deserve, which is the opposite of what CMS is trying to achieve,” said David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, American College of Surgeons Executive Director. “Without congressional action, surgical care faces a significant payment cut and threatens patient access to critical treatments and procedures. All patients deserve a health care system that invests in surgical care and does not create uncertainty year after year.”

“The Surgical Care Coalition stands ready to work with Congress to stop these devastating cuts and begin working toward a sustainable, long-term solution that protects patients without pitting doctors against each other,” said John K. Ratliff, MD, American Association of Neurological Surgeon/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Washington Committee Chair.

“By acting to mitigate reimbursement cuts for surgical care, Congress acknowledged how misguided and devastating CMS’s policies are to patients,” said Alan M. Speir, MD, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons Council on Health Policy and Relationships Chair. “Congress must intervene again to ensure that patients are able to access the lifesaving surgical care they need.”

“CMS’ proposed 2022 Medicare Fee Schedule has a huge effect on ophthalmology’s ability to run a successful ophthalmology practice, which has one of the highest Medicare beneficiary bases,” said George A. Williams, MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Secretary for Advocacy. “The Academy is proud to partner with the Surgical Care Coalition and will work over the next few months in an effort to ensure that the final version of the rule is fair to ophthalmologists and surgeons.”

“Vascular Surgeons not only provide surgical care when indicated, but a tremendous amount of pre- and post-surgery medical management and long-term care, often for the rest of patients’ lives, for millions of seniors covered primarily by Medicare,” said Ali AbuRahma, MD, Society for Vascular Surgery President. “If these cuts proceed, the elderly population in this country will face an enormous crisis of access to quality care, not only surgical care, but support in decision-making and lifelong medical management for optimal vascular health.”

“At a time when medical practices have been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a significant backlog of patients in need of surgical care, further cuts are not only unsustainable, they ultimately threaten patient access to care,” said Richard S. Hoffman, MD, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery President. “This is especially true for patients receiving sight-restoring cataract surgery, one of the most successful and frequently performed procedures for Medicare beneficiaries.”

“These cuts to surgical care harm patients by limiting funding for critical research and the training of the next generation of surgeons,” said Eugene W. Laveroni, Jr., D.O., American College of Osteopathic Surgeons President. “Our patients deserve a Medicare system that protects their access to quality surgical care to ensure they get the care they need, when they need it.”

About the Surgical Care Coalition
The Surgical Care Coalition advocates for access to quality surgical care for all Americans. The Surgical Care Coalition is comprised of 13 surgical professional associations that proudly represent the more than 150,000 surgeons working across the country with a common goal of improving the quality of care, and quality of life, for all patients.

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