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In yet another disappointing move that underscores continued dysfunction in Congress, lawmakers have approved a stopgap spending measure that keeps the government afloat until early March. The new package contains no relief from cuts to the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, despite strong advocacy from a host of patient and provider organizations and fierce criticism from within Congress' own ranks.

The $1.66 trillion deal is in large part a continuation of funding levels approved in the last short-term continuing resolution, a tiered-deadline package with expiration dates of Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. The new continuing resolution extends those deadlines to March 1 and 8. The plan passed the Senate by a 77-18 margin; the House of Representatives voted 414-108 in favor.

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Cuts Continue

Dozens of other critical programs including the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, which continues to operate with a 3.4% reduction in the conversion factor used to determine payment, remained untouched. The fee schedule cuts continue despite persistent and vocal calls for a fix from more than 100 provider organizations including APTA, the American Medical Association, and others, as well as a letter of support for relief from more than 190 members of the House.

Adding to the sense of frustration around congressional inaction is the fact that bipartisan legislation to address the cuts has already been introduced in the House and was being pushed for inclusion in the legislative package. The bill, H.R. 6683, would provide full relief from the cuts, and make that relief retroactive to the Jan. 1 implementation date of the 2024 fee schedule. Many of the House members who are champions on this issue expressed anger about the lack of a fix for the fee schedule in this package, including Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., who threatened to vote no on the budget deal unless money for the fee schedule was included.

Voice Support for a Fix With APTA Advocacy Tools

The next opportunity for fee schedule relief will come as Congress decides how it will deal with the looming March deadlines. APTA continues to urge members and supporters to voice support for H.R. 6683 through the APTA Patient Action Center or Legislative Action Center. Both resources make the process fast and easy.

"Every day that goes by without full elimination of the 3.4% cuts makes it more difficult for providers, including physical therapists, to keep their doors open," said Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of government affairs. "Congress simply can't continue to ignore the millions of Americans who must pay the price for lawmakers' inability to accomplish a basic legislative task."

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