More than 100 health groups urge Congress to stop Medicare cuts

The American Medical Association and groups from every state said the cuts will add to the financial hardships clinicians are facing.

With only a few weeks left in the year, more than 100 healthcare organizations and advocacy groups are urging Congress to prevent cuts in Medicare payments.

Congress is looking at a Jan. 1 deadline to avert the planned reductions. The American Medical Association, scores of healthcare groups and medical societies in all 50 states sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to block the cuts.

In November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved the 2023 Medicare physician fee schedule, which finalized a 4.5% reduction in Medicare payment rates for doctors.

“We cannot overstate the importance of Congress stopping the entirety of the upcoming 4.5% reduction,” the letter states. “Anything less will result in an across-the-board cut that will further exacerbate the significant financial hardship clinicians are already facing and undermine Medicare’s ability to deliver on its promises to seniors and future generations.”

Read more: Hospitals, health groups press Congress on big issues before year ends

Groups signing the letter include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Health Care Association, and many others.

The health groups also note the financial toll and economic stress doctors have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of such stress and burnout, roughly one out of five doctors are considering leaving their practice in the next two years, they noted.

The letter was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Doctors and health systems are also bracing for the prospect of deeper cuts in Medicare under federal budget rules. Right now, Medicare is slated for a 4% cut under the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) sequester, which is designed to ensure that federal spending doesn’t add to the deficit. Health groups have urged congressional leaders to stop the sequester.

Doctors and medical groups can’t afford those cuts, the Medical Groups Management Association says. Most medical groups have said the cuts would reduce patient access to healthcare, the MGMA says.

An MGMA poll found that 58% of practices said they would limit the number of new Medicare patients, and 58% also said they would consider reducing the number of clinical staff. Almost a third of the practices (29%) said they would consider closing satellite locations.

John Hawkins, president and CEO of the Texas Hospital Association, said in a recent press briefing that the planned Medicare cuts would hurt doctors and medical groups.

As the year draws to a close, health groups are also pushing for key priorities before the congressional session ends. Hospitals are pushing Congress to approve telehealth extensions, prior authorization reforms, and aid for rural hospitals.