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Another federal spending deadline is fast approaching, which means Congress has an opportunity to provide relief to cuts in the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. A bipartisan group of senators is urging lawmakers to do just that.

Writing that ignoring the 3.4% cut "will threaten the continued ability of physicians and other healthcare providers to care for their patients," a group of 32 senators from both sides of the aisle have signed on to a letter calling for Congress to take action — both in terms of addressing immediate needs as well as looking at reform of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., authored the letter.

"After three consecutive years of Medicare payment reductions, healthcare providers are at a breaking point and are struggling to maintain access to care for the Medicare beneficiaries they treat," the letter states. "It is anticipated that these cuts will be felt hardest by smaller, independent practices, like those in rural and underserved areas that continue to face significant health care access challenges."

The letter urges Congress to "work together with the provider community to come up with long-term legislative solutions" but adds that until that can happen, "the most important step that Congress can take to create stability in the Medicare program is to address the cut to Medicare payments."

Whether lawmakers will take action on the cuts remains to be seen, but time is again running out: Federal spending limits expire in a tiered fashion on March 1 and 8 — and as of Feb. 27, no long-term or stopgap plans have been announced. [Editor's note: Since publication of this article, Congress approved a stopgap measure that will expire on March 8 and 22. As of March 1, no longer-term plans have been announced.]

The letter is clearly in line with APTA's advocacy efforts around the fee schedule, and echoes sentiments expressed by more than 190 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in a Dec. 13, 2023, letter to House and Senate leadership.

If Congress decides to pursue a fix, it wouldn't be starting from scratch: Bipartisan legislation to address the cuts has already been introduced in the House. The bill, H.R. 6683, would provide full relief from the cuts. 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.

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