The drastic cuts Medicare has proposed to payment rates for hospital-based providers in 2021 have my blood boiling and should make anyone who believes in access to high-quality health care feel the same.
It’s caught the attention of lawmakers. In fact, just last month, a letter signed by more than 220 bipartisan members of Congress was sent to Speaker of the House Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Pelosi defends election results: ‘It was a great victory’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Capital One – Pfizer, BioNTech apply for vaccine authorization MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyPeters criticizes Trump for not taking action after cyberattacks on hospitals, COVID-19 researchers McConnell, Pelosi hunt for funding deal as shutdown deadline looms The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC – Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans MORE (R-Calif.), pleading for action before the end of the year to protect a health care system already stressed by COVID-19 and to ensure patient access to care.
So what’s the issue? Each year, the rate Medicare pays for some services can change. By 2021, some services and some physicians will receive payment increases. Unfortunately, due to a longstanding problem in Medicare law, when some services and physicians get payment increases, others must receive offsetting payment decreases — a hunger games scenario. This is bad news for physician anesthesiologists.
Their payments for high-risk services provided on the front lines during the pandemic will be cut an unprecedented 10 percent. Medicare payment rates have not kept up with inflation for years, which makes the cuts hurt even more, especially for physician anesthesiologists. Their Medicare payment rates will be reduced to virtually the same level as Medicare was paying in 1991 — 30 years ago. Does any other government contractor get paid at 1991 rates?
Why is this a problem?
At the start of the COVID-19 public health crisis, nearly all surgeries were put on hold. This included so-called elective procedures and surgeries like rotator cuff repairs, cataracts and even heart surgery. As these surgeries were postponed for months, physician anesthesiologists hung up their surgical caps and grabbed their face shields and N95 respirators when they were called to critical care units to fight COVID-19. We stepped forward to take care of the most critically ill patients — many were likely Medicare beneficiaries — placing them on ventilators and making every effort to save their lives while risking our own by getting face-to-face with these patients.
One of the more common procedures physician anesthesiologists perform are intubations —…
Read More: Drastic cuts proposed to Medicare would hurt health care quality