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Senators line up to support restoring physician reimbursement cut in Medicare


Letter to leadership outlines bleak financial picture for doctors, possible decrease in care for patients.

capitol hill congress washington dc summer sunset: © Philip - stock.adobe.com

© Philip - stock.adobe.com

At least 32 senators are urging their peers to address the 3.37% cut that went into effect this year in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.

On Feb. 23, a bipartisan group of senators signed a missive to Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) urging action. They noted the current shortage of physicians and other clinicians and projections that shortage will get worse in coming years.

“A major contributing factor to this unfortunate reality is our Medicare physician payment system, which has failed to maintain physician reimbursement at levels that adequately incentivize high quality care,” the letter said.

“After three consecutive years of Medicare payment reductions, health care providers are at a breaking point and are struggling to maintain access to care for the Medicare beneficiaries they treat,” the senators’ letter said. “Facing a nearly 10 percent reduction in Medicare payments over the past four years, rising practice costs, workforce shortages, and financial uncertainty resulting from the pandemic, some practices are already limiting the number of Medicare patients they see, or the types of services offered. It is anticipated that these cuts will be felt hardest by smaller, independent practices, like those in rural and underserved areas that continue to face significant health care access challenges.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) announced the letter and issued a statement from President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH. He praised the leadership of Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas) and Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vermont), who sounded the call among the senators.

"In a short time, nearly a third of the Senate has signed a letter calling on Congress to scrap the 3.37 percent Medicare payment cut,” Ehrenfeld’s statement said. “This bipartisan support reflects the deep concern across the country that these cuts endanger health care access for constituents, especially those in rural and underserved areas. We will be working with members of Congress over the next few weeks to achieve the goals of this letter, and we appreciate Sens. Boozman and Welch for their leadership. Medicare patients are grateful that they have champions in Washington."

Additional signers were: Sen. Roger “Doc” Marshall, MD (R-Kansas); Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota); Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine); Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina); Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon); Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California); Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-California); Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut); Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire); Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada); Sen. Angus S. King Jr. (I-Maine); Sen. M. Michael Rounds (R-South Dakota); Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma); Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York); Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi); Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana); Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware); Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey); Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska); Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona); Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota); Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii); Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyoming); Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan); Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island); and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan).

The senators are not alone in supporting a change to the physician reimbursement cut.

In an interview this month, Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R-Indiana), said members of the House of Representatives also want to increase the reimbursement for physicians and that could happen in the next month or so.

The issue has been lingering for months, with the AMA and other physician groups in late 2023 mounting their information campaigns about the cut that went into effect in January.

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