Federal bill would delay cuts to medicare for health care providers and prevent “income tampering”

After healthcare providers suffered dramatic cuts to Medicare reimbursement this year, congressional lawmakers are taking action to limit the cuts in 2022.

A bill introduced on Tuesday would prevent 2% of Medicare sequestration – or at least curb the deep cuts associated with the calendar year (CY) 2022 Physician Honor Scale (PFS).

The legislation would delay sequestration by 2% until March 31 of next year, followed by a 1% reduction for three months until June 30.

If passed, the legislation “will reduce the impact of upcoming medicare cuts and protect providers from an upcoming revenue cliff on Jan. 1,” Stifel analysts wrote in a note released Tuesday.

Support for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic enjoys bipartisan support in the House and Senate, according to a Politico report. Representatives Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) And Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) Introduced the bill to avoid cuts to next year’s PFS, which is due to go into effect next month.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the PFS for 2022 in November, confirming a 1% reduction in Medicare Part B physiotherapy and occupational therapy rates, from the proposed 2% in July, and a reduction 15% for services provided. by therapeutic assistants.

These cuts follow a devastating 2021 calendar year, which included 9% cuts in Part B before the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act reduced repayment cuts to around 3%.

A temporary increase in Medicare payments of 3.75% is also set to expire at the end of this year, according to the final rule, along with a reduction in Medicare payments of 4% resulting from the Pay As You Go Act. measure (PAYGO).

The law was sparked by a $ 1.9 trillion pandemic program that pushed spending over budget.

If the bill passes, suppliers will see a 37.5% lower revenue impact for the year if the 2% cut is delayed, Stifel analysts wrote, providing support early in the year. year. Doctors would see a 0.75% reduction in the fee schedule, rather than 3.75%. PAYGO would be delayed until 2023.

“We expect Ensign Group… to directly benefit from the new bill. Healthcare REITs exposed to acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other ambulatory care facilities would also benefit indirectly, ”Stifel analysts wrote of the players in the space.

Suppliers had hoped Congress would pass another spending bill that further offsets the cuts to net zero for 2022.

Leaders of the National Association for the Support of Long-Term Care (NASL) say the House has ‘really heard’ the organization, in terms of reducing unsustainable Part B services for long-term care providers at this stage of the pandemic.

“We support the included fixes and are very grateful for them. We are disappointed that it does not contain a delay in reducing therapeutic assistant services, but we have learned that we can still fix it in 2022 even if this reduction takes effect in January ”, Cynthia Morton, vice president NASL executive, Skilled Nursing News said in an email. “We will not stop fighting efforts that limit beneficiaries’ access to therapy during the pandemic.”

The bill also provides for a one-year increase in the Medicare physician fee schedule of 3% to accommodate changes and support healthcare providers facing burnout, delay reductions in the schedule of fees. one-year clinical laboratory fees and suspend implementation of a radiation oncology model.

“As we face a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to come together and help us embrace support for healthcare providers during COVID-19 Pandemic Act before the new year, “Horsford said in a statement, referring to the omicron variant.

Representative Schrier echoed Horsford’s sentiments, adding that a pandemic is not the time to cut patients’ access to doctors.

“This legislation will bring some stability to the Medicare payment system to ensure that patients can continue to see their doctors,” Schrier added in the same statement. “And doctors, who have been on the front lines during this pandemic, can continue to keep their doors open.”

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