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Spending bills throw 1.68% bone to physicians for Medicare reimbursement


‘Appallingly inadequate’ after 3.4% cut starting this year, MGMA says.

Congress: © lazyllama - stock.adobe.com

© lazyllama - stock.adobe.com

Medicare physician reimbursement would get a 1.68% bump under the federal spending bills introduced this week.

But it may be too little to help physicians who already are feeling financial pressure from rising costs and lower payments, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

On March 3, the House Appropriations Committee released 2024 government funding legislation ahead of looming deadlines to avert a possible federal government shutdown. The bills cover six main areas: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

STAT news reported the 1.68% reimbursement increase for doctors.

The so-called “fix” won’t do much to help physicians’ monetary struggles, said Anders Gilberg, MGMA senior vice president of government affairs.

“We are deeply disappointed with Congress’ half-hearted attempt to remedy the devastating blow physician practices were dealt by the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. Anything less than a full reversal of the 3.4% cut is appallingly inadequate,” Gilberg said in a statement.

News outlets reported the release aimed to give representatives at least 72 hours to review the various provisions before voting. The House Appropriations Committee made the joint announcement from Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas), Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine). Various news reports cited Democratic and Republican claims of policy and spending wins for supporters.

Senators form working group

The 3.4% cut to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule this year has been a bone of contention for physicians and their supporters for months.

So far this year, a bipartisan group of senators announced formation of a new Medicare Payment Reform Working Group. Its opening statement acknowledged “the physician payment system has failed to keep pace with the actual cost of care and the improvements in new services and technologies.”

The 2015 Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) “made significant strides towards a value-based payment system.” Even so, more action is needed to address reimbursement challenges and align payment incentives with patient outcomes.

“We believe Congress must make changes to the current Medicare physician payment system to ensure financial stability for providers, improve patient outcomes, promote access to quality care, and incentivize the utilization of emerging health care technology,” said the statement issued by member Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada). “Today, we are beginning work as a bipartisan working group to help achieve these goals and put Medicare on a sustainable path for the future.

“This working group is committed to exploring and proposing policy solutions for stable physician payments and necessary updates to MACRA, ensuring sustained access to quality care for patients,” the senators said. “We will be reaching out to stakeholders in the coming weeks to seek feedback and to begin developing policies that will address Medicare physician payment for the long-term.”

Additional members are Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia).

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