Physical therapy providers, occupational therapy providers, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are in dire financial predicaments and struggling to continue providing essential rehabilitation and audiology services to their patients, particularly to those who live in rural and underserved communities. And now, they are facing a significant additional hurdle on the road to recovery.
Despite ongoing advocacy by the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association throughout 2019 and 2020, the 2021 final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today adopts significant payment reductions for more than three dozen health care provider groups effective Jan. 1, 2021. Audiologists, occupational therapy providers, physical therapy providers, and speech-language pathologists are facing between a 6% and 9% cut to Medicare payment on top of the revenue they lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A reduction in payment of this magnitude will severely damage patient access to the services our members provide across the care continuum. APTA, AOTA, and ASHA call on Congress to keep Medicare payment levels stable, sparing physical therapy, audiology, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and dozens of other providers from cuts designed to offset increases to payment for office/outpatient evaluations and management services. Our members serve a critical role in the health and vitality of this nation, frequently evaluating and treating older adults with physical, cognitive, communication, psychosocial, hearing, and balance disorders. Our services help ensure that these beneficiaries have the functional stability required to remain safe and independent within their communities. The care we provide is all the more important to patients recovering from COVID-19.
The federal government, patients, and taxpayers are best served by ensuring that the Medicare program promotes accessible, high-quality, efficient treatment of our most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries throughout their episode of care, not just during their initial visit to a physician’s office. Rehabilitative and audiologic services may not be available to Medicare beneficiaries, nor to millions of other patients, if therapy practitioners, audiologists, other members of the clinician team, and institutional-based providers are unable to sustain these cuts and are forced to close their doors.
The clock is ticking — these cuts will be implemented in 30 days. APTA, AOTA, and ASHA urge Congress to include H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, in any moving legislative vehicle before the end of the year. H.R. 8702 is bipartisan legislation that will address these cuts by providing relief payments in an amount that will ensure parity with current payment for impacted services.
We encourage our members and others to tell members of Congress to address the cuts by supporting H.R. 8702, Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020.