Medicare Cuts Ignore Realities of Pandemic and Will Harm Patient Care

WASHINGTON (November 2, 2021) — The Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) final rule released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) doubles down on the harmful 3.75% cut to surgeons and surgical practices that will harm patient access to care, which has already been significantly impacted by the pandemic, argues the Surgical Care Coalition.

“Amid the ongoing pandemic, it’s critical now more than ever, to protect patients by stopping these cuts and working toward a long-term solution to stabilize the health care system,” said John K. Ratliff, MD, American Association of Neurological Surgeon/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Washington Committee Chair. “Patients have already delayed important preventative care like cancer screenings due to COVID-19. These cuts will further delay care to our nation’s seniors.”

This 3.75% cut combined with automatic Medicare cuts will slash Medicare payments to surgeons by nearly 9%, beginning January 1, 2022. As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have already caused Americans to delay needed care, these cuts will continue to strain health care systems nationwide.

“Our patients put their trust in us to provide them the best care, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they cannot trust the system that’s supposed to be set up to support them,” said David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, American College of Surgeons Executive Director. “These Medicare cuts will further exacerbate our pandemic-strained health care system and cause further delay in care to the patients who need it most.”

Representatives Ami Bera, MD (D-CA) and Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN) recently led a bipartisan letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), signed by 247 US Representatives and supported by 135 national medical groups, urging them to stop these harmful cuts. In these next few weeks, the Surgical Care Coalition will continue to advocate for Congress to protect patients and the care they need.

“Despite hospital overcrowding, a health professional shortage, a backlog of some 5 million surgical cases and a fragile recovery from COVID-19, CMS chose to finalize policies that will further jeopardize patient access to surgical care,” said John H. Calhoon, MD, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons First Vice President. “Our health system is already stressed to the breaking point. We urge Congress to intervene for the sake of our patients.”

“Over the past few years, ophthalmologists and other surgeons have faced Medicare payment uncertainty and drastic payment cuts, which have profoundly affected our ability to run our practices and care for patients,” said George A. Williams, MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Secretary for Advocacy. “As expected, the release of CMS’ final 2022 fee schedule will again necessitate Congressional intervention to stop the payment cuts this year. We will continue to urge Congress to seek long-term solutions for physician payment reform.”

“As vascular surgeons we provide comprehensive care to a predominantly elderly, sick, and vulnerable population,” said Ali AbuRahma, MD, Society for Vascular Surgery President. “These cuts will further strain a health care system already on the brink of breaking, and will place the neediest patients in the greatest jeopardy for losing access to medically necessary services.”

“In light of the pandemic’s negative impact on medical practices, further cuts to physician reimbursement pose an unsustainable risk to 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 resources and availability of highly trained quality surgeons. The continued erosion of specialty care through these policies not only harm the physician that provides the care but also the patient,” said Christopher A. Reeder, D.O., FACOS, FACS, 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.”

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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.