Legislation to Protect Seniors and Stop Devastating Medicare Cuts Heads to the President’s Desk; Real Work Begins to Fix Broken Payment System

Congress must reform Medicare’s broken payment system in 2022 to prevent future issues year after year

WASHINGTON, DC (December 9, 2021) — The U.S. Senate passed legislation today to protect Medicare patients’ access to surgical care by mitigating the cuts surgeons were set to face in less than four weeks, according to the Surgical Care Coalition. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

“Today’s action will protect our nation’s seniors and avoid adding further stress to our health care system amid the ongoing pandemic,” said American College of Surgeons Incoming Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS. “However, this bill is a band aid. The surgical community urges Congress to use this brief delay to immediately consider longer-term solutions to the broken Medicare payment system to prevent future crises. The Surgical Care Coalition stands ready to work with Congress to fix the system to protect America’s seniors.”

The bill, S.610, Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act, will delay some of the nearly 9% cuts to surgeons. Had Congress failed to act, these cuts would have jeopardized patient access to care amid the ongoing pandemic.

“By delaying significant cuts to surgical care, this bill will help protect patient access to care across the country” said John K. Ratliff, American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Washington Committee Chair. “Still, physicians continue to face these same payment cuts year after year. We look forward to working with Congress to reform the Medicare payment system so that it invests in health care providers and ensures that they can be there for patients when and where patients need them.”

“We thank Congress for taking action on this bill today. It will delay devastating cuts from harming our nation’s most vulnerable patients,” said George A. Williams, MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Secretary for Advocacy. “Unfortunately, there is more work to be done to ensure patients can continue to receive the timely care they need. We ask each member of Congress to continue standing up for our health care heroes by reforming the Medicare payment system so that it stops pitting doctor against doctor and invests in our nation’s physicians.”

“With another successful mitigation of the cuts surgeons were facing, Congress again shows that it protects Medicare patients access to surgical care,” said American College of Osteopathic Surgeons’ President Christopher A. Reeder, D.O. FACOS, FACS. “However, these 11th hour mitigation efforts should not be looked at as a long-term tenable solution. We are calling on Congress to work with the surgical community to fix the Medicare payment system so that the Medicare system can provide high quality care to Medicare patients.”

“While imperfect, this legislation is a step in the right direction for surgeons and patients. Congress reduced anticipated cuts to Medicare reimbursement by nearly 80% yet still decided that some cuts during a global pandemic are acceptable,” said The Society of Thoracic Surgeons First Vice President John H. Calhoon, MD. “This reality highlights ongoing and real challenges within our Medicare payment system. We urge Congress to work with STS and other surgical associations on a long-term solution.”

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For more information, contact Jennifer Bagley at jbagley@sts.org or 312-202-5865.

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.