After months of advocacy by APTA members, Congress partially addressed the projected 9% payment cut for physical therapist services under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule that’s set to go into effect Jan. 1.
The COVID-19 relief package, announced yesterday, includes $5 billion in offsets that will reduce the cuts from an average of about 9% to an average of about 3.6%.
This relief falls well short of ensuring patient access to needed services, and a 3.6% cut threatens the viability of thousands of providers who offer safe, cost-effective care that helps older adults maintain their independence and avoid more costly procedures.
Cuts of this nature are unsustainable for the physical therapy profession, and the knowledge that three dozen other health care providers also are facing cuts doesn’t make them easier to withstand. At the same time Medicare improved payment for physical therapist evaluation and reevaluation, it has made it more difficult for PTs to actually treat their patients.
We arrived at this point because the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services continues to adjust the dials for payment under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule within its requirements for budget neutrality — but this model is clearly outdated.
First developed in 1992, the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule fails to adequately support or recognize a modern health care delivery system in which multiple health care professionals work collaboratively to advance appropriate health outcomes for their patients.
I am grateful for the thousands of APTA members who used their voice to fight these cuts, as well as dozens of members of Congress who repeatedly supported our efforts. Reducing these cuts is a critical first step to the sustainability of physical therapist services, and we will advocate for additional relief in 2021.
APTA is eager to work with members of the next Congress to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries across the country can receive the high-quality, interprofessional health services they need and deserve.