With the clock ticking on Congress to do something about the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' plans to impose payment cuts and a PTA payment differential beginning Jan. 1, a potential reprieve has emerged just in time.
On Friday, Nov. 19, Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., introduced the Supporting Medicare Providers Act (H.R. 6020), legislation that would prevent cuts to the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule by providing additional funding to the fee schedule’s conversion factor through the end of 2022. The introduction of the bill opens up an opportunity for opponents of the planned cuts to convince lawmakers to take action.
If passed into law, the legislation would effectively continue congressional action taken in December 2020, when APTA advocacy resulted in Congress authorizing an additional $3 billion in new funding to the fee schedule that boosted its conversion factor. That funding was only for one year and runs out on Dec. 31; absent new intervention by Congress, the conversion factor will drop by 3.75% in January, resulting in cuts to dozens of providers, including physical therapists. The bill introduced last week would maintain the conversion factor increase passed in 2020, essentially offsetting the cuts planned by CMS.
While the success of the bill isn't certain, there would appear to be an appetite for addressing the Medicare cuts among lawmakers: already, a majority of U.S. House of Representatives members have voiced their support for a remedy of some kind.
The emergence of H.R. 6020 isn't the only piece of helpful legislation now in Congress: APTA continues to advocate for the Stabilizing Medicare Access to Rehabilitation and Therapy Act, or SMART Act (H.R. 5536) in any end-of-the-year legislative package. If signed into law, the legislation would delay implementation of the 15% Medicare PTA payment differential until Jan. 1, 2023, and provide an exemption to the differential for rural and underserved areas. The bill also includes a change long-advocated by APTA: allowing for general supervision of PTAs in outpatient settings under Medicare Part B. The SMART Act was introduced by Reps. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Jason Smith, R-Mo.
Make Your Voice Heard
Now's the time to let lawmakers know how important it is for Congress to act. Here's what you can do.
Step 1: Start Sending Letters
Delivering a strong, unified, and coordinated message is key. Use the APTA Patient Action Center to send emails to your legislators in both the Senate and House to urge them to cosponsors H.R. 6020 and H.R. 5366 (APTA makes it easy to send multiple communications in a matter of minutes). And be sure to tell co-workers, patients, and other supporters to do the same — everyone can use our Patient Action Center.
Step 2. Get Connected. Then Get Ready
With time running out in this congressional session, it's hard to predict if, when, and how Congress will address the cuts, so we need to be ready to act on a moment's notice. The best way to do that? Sign up for the APTA Advocacy Network, a free service that sends you special legislative updates and action alerts so you're up to speed and ready to roll.
Step 3. Stay Tuned. And Get the Word Out
In addition to signing up for the Advocacy Network, keep an eye on the APTA website, our Facebook, Twitter (@APTAtweets), and Instagram (aptapics) feeds, and the weekly all-member news blast for developments including live online advocacy events and other calls to action. And while you're at it, share the communications with others and urge them to take part at this critical time to stand up for patient access to care.