Physicians and related stakeholder groups have rallied against the 2024 physician fee schedule proposed rule, which was issued in July. The rule is expected to be finalized shortly, but providers are saying that any cuts could jeopardize access to primary care.
The proposed rule contains a 3.36% cut to the conversion factor for physician pay in 2024, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have argued that the cuts come largely from the expected outcomes of new billing codes that they hope will be used to simplify coding for complex visits, Axios reports. But specialists, who tend to see patients for only one issue per visit, are concerned that they’ll bear the brunt of the cuts.
While comments on the rule closed last month, hospitals and physician groups are still expressing concern, Modern Healthcare explains. Commenters on the rule were largely supportive of the proposal to extend Medicare coverage of telehealth and virtual care services as well as changes to improve accountable care organization participation. But provider groups and their representatives stressed that the physician pay cuts could exacerbate existing issues with inflation, supply chain issues and workforce shortages.
The American Medical Association sent a 120-page long comment letter to CMS, the group boasts in a call to action post on the AMA website. In it, the AMA criticized the agency on the valuation of specific codes, price-expense data, evaluation-and-management (E/M) codes, billing for split or shared visits, telehealth and the Medicare Shared Savings Program. From AMA President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH:
With higher costs for everything associated with practicing medicine, another year of Medicare payment cuts jeopardizes patient access and imperils the physician practices on which communities rely. These cuts are unsustainable and unconscionable.
The American Hospital Association also sent a substantial comment to CMS, urging the agency to work with Congress to address the issues that have arisen from budget neutrality:
This negative update would pose significant risks to patients’ access to care and healthcare systems’ financial stability, particularly for providers serving historically marginalized communities. Our concern is heightened by the fact that this cut is coming in the wake of over three years of unrelenting financial pressures on the healthcare system due to COVID-19, along with rising inflation, increasing input costs and persisting staffing shortages and supply disruptions.