A letter from 46 U.S. representatives calls the cuts "reckless."
The push to avoid a proposed 8% cut to therapy payment under Medicare in 2021 has gained significant momentum: Thanks to strong grassroots efforts and advocacy from organizations including APTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the American Speech Language Hearing Association, 46 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on to a letter urging House leadership to create a path that would allow CMS to drop the potentially devastating proposed cuts.
On May 28, Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) submitted a bipartisan letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decrying the January 1, 2021, proposed cuts to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and urging action by the House to prevent them.
"If these cuts are allowed to go into effect, they will be devastating and will limit access to care for patients, including seniors, who rely on these services," the letter states. "Ultimately, these cuts will force physical and occupational clinics to close, resulting in thousands of qualified professional clinicians, especially those in rural and urban areas in our districts, to lose their jobs." The results, authors write, could lead to large-scale losses in access to care, including "the over 50 million Americans who suffer from acute and chronic pain conditions [that] will be unable to access these important, non-opioid services."
The letter also points out that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic "could be felt for years" in the health care system, adding, "Now is not the time to implement these reckless cuts when our health care system is under such tremendous financial strain."
The proposed cuts are an attempt by CMS to maintain "budget neutrality" while increasing payment for primary care provider evaluation and management codes, referred to as E/M codes. To find the money to pay for the increase without exceeding budget limits, CMS proposed to reduce reimbursement for codes commonly used by more that three dozen health care provider types. Reimbursement cuts to codes associated with physical therapy are estimated to result in an 8% payment drop.
The letter to House leadership urges enactment of a legislative proposal that would waive budget neutrality requirements so that CMS could move ahead with the E/M increases without putting payment to other professions on the chopping block.
Since the CMS announcement of the proposed cuts that accompanied the 2020 physician fee schedule, more than 60 health care provider organizations launched advocacy efforts to block or blunt the damage. Those efforts are ongoing at APTA, which offers members and other stakeholders online opportunities to make their voices heard in pushing for elimination of the cuts.
“We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Rush and Representative Brooks on this important issue,” said Justin Elliott, APTA's vice president of government affairs.“When therapists, clinics, and rehabilitation facilities are struggling, particularly in rural and underserved areas, it's clear that this is no time to implement payment cuts that will negatively hurt patient access to care and exacerbate the instability of health care providers' practices."