On November 2, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule. Despite vocal opposition from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) and many others in the physician community, this rule finalizes a greater than 3% reduction to physician reimbursement beginning January 1, 2024.
When adjusted for inflation, Medicare physician payments have declined by 26% since 2001. This latest reduction is the most recent example of a trend that is unsustainable and impacts patient access to care. These cuts are due to the implementation of the flawed complexity add-on code G2211, combined with expiring temporary relief previously enacted by Congress. The final rule also contains a few positive developments. CMS agreed with STS’s concerns that raising the required threshold to avoid a penalty in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) from 75 to 82 points was inappropriate at this time because the MIPS program has been largely paused since 2019 due the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS also approved several new intraoperative cardiac ultrasound CPT codes (76987–76989) at higher levels than in the proposed rule, which will be available to cardiothoracic surgeons next year.
Fortunately, the Senate Finance Committee recently released a draft legislative proposal that seeks to extend relief payments for physicians that are slated to expire this year. If enacted, this would help counteract a portion of the cuts slated for 2023. STS will continue to urge Congress to halt this unsustainable cut and to enact policies such as H.R. 2474, the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act, which would provide an annual automatic inflation update for physician payments going forward. Help us maintain adequate Medicare reimbursements by contacting your lawmakers now!
Learn more about STS’s advocacy efforts focused on the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.