As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the country, America's physicians remain entrenched on the front lines, fighting to save their patients. After nearly a year of combating the deadly virus, there is a growing evidence of the toll it continues to take on physician practices.
Last year, Congress recognized the challenges physician practices were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and waived the 2% Medicare sequestration cuts to give every Medicare physician a 2% payment increase for 2020. In December, Congress extended the waiver through March 31, 2021. Both actions were bipartisan. However, it is now clear that the pandemic is going to continue further into 2021. If the sequestration cuts are allowed to take effect, it will have a devastating financial impact on physician practices across the country, many of which are already strained to the breaking point.
To that end, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked her House chairmen to introduce legislation (HR 1868) to waive the cuts for the duration of the public health emergency. HR 1868 was introduced last week and the House will take it up for a floor vote this Friday, March 19, 2021.
Despite the bipartisan votes on this issue in 2020, Republicans are now refusing to vote for this legislation, claiming it is because the $12 billion cost is not offset with a corresponding funding source.
The California Medical Association (CMA) is urging bipartisan support for this important legislation to avert the Medicare sequestration cuts at a time when the viability of physician practices is so fundamentally threatened.
The continued negative fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices is undeniable. A recent report from the American Medical Association (AMA) analyzed Medicare claims data exclusive to physician services and found spending dropped as much as 57% below expected pre-pandemic levels in April 2020. During the first half of 2020, the cumulative estimated reduction in Medicare physician spending associated with the pandemic was $9.4 billion (19%).
CMA urges all physicians to contact their Members of Congress before Friday, March 19 and ask them to pass HR 1868.