Without Congressional Action, Medicare Physician Payment Cuts Start Jan. 1, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today joined in introducing legislation to prevent cuts to physician payments planned by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to begin Jan. 1, 2021.

The Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020 (S.5007) would ensure payments to medical physicians are maintained at current levels for the next two years.  The measure was introduced by Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.), Hyde-Smith, and Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“If our heroes this year are people who wear scrubs, then it is unconscionable to hit them with Medicare cuts as a New Year’s gift,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This legislation needs to be passed before the holidays to provide relief to the very healthcare professionals who bear the burden of fighting this pandemic.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, CMS plans to increase the payment levels for stand-alone office and outpatient evaluation and management visits.  This will result in payment cuts for surgical services due to statutory budget neutrality requirements.

In a letter sent last week, the sponsors of the new legislation called on Senate leadership to stop the scheduled cuts.  More than 70 medical colleges and associations support the effort to stop the cuts.
“2021 is fast approaching, and time is running out. We need Congress to protect our patients by passing legislation that stops these cuts,” said John A. Wilson, MD, FAANS, FACS, President of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.  “The legislation introduced by Sens. Boozman, Cramer, Hyde-Smith, Cotton, and Collins will preserve patient access to quality care.”

“Our nation’s physicians are under incredible strain due to COVID-19, and this bill begins to correct a misguided and ill-timed policy that would cut health care spending in the middle of a pandemic.  Time is running out to reverse these cuts and protect patients.  We thank Sen. Boozman for his leadership on this issue and will continue to partner with him and his Congressional colleagues to protect patients’ access to quality surgical care,” said David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, American College of Surgeons Executive Director.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.