Congress delays steep Medicare payment cuts

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Both the House of Representatives and Senate have approved legislation to delay steep cuts to Medicare that were set to take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

It is anticipated President Donald Trump will eventually sign the bill; however, if it is vetoed, Congress has the votes and is expected to override that veto. Should this take a few more weeks to resolve, changes will likely be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021. A summary of the legislation is here.

This action follows thousands of hours of effort by the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) Government Relations and PAC Steering committees, Advocacy Council and staff, as well as an unprecedented level of member involvement.

Nearly 800 members engaged in grassroots efforts to write their lawmakers and urge their support for stopping the cuts.

In four separate efforts to engage with Congress, members sent 2,627 messages to their lawmakers. One campaign, urging Congress to act on bills directed at stopping the cuts, garnered 925 calls to action—an SVS record.

“We thank the hundreds of SVS members who responded to our call for action on behalf of their patients—an unprecedented demonstration of the power of the SVS and Surgical Care Coalition to drive our shared legislative agenda,” said SVS president Ronald L. Dalman.

“Thanks as well to the SVS Advocacy staff, Policy and Advocacy Council, and Government Relations and PAC Steering committees for their commitment to this effort over the past year. There’s more work to do but step one—stopping the draconian and arbitrary cuts—achieved.”

The legislation, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, passed by Congress late Monday and expected to be signed by President Trump, prevents the cuts by increasing all Medicare payment codes by 3.75 percent for 2021 and delaying an add-on code for three years. The cuts for 2022 and 2023 will be less expensive for Congress to address and/or CMS staff to work on. Many of the details will depend on implementation language. SVS said it will continue to examine these details for their effect on vascular surgeons.

Congress also approved new financing for the PPP loan program, including allowing businesses to reapply, if they meet employee number and revenue loss criteria.

SVS joined with 11 other surgical professional associations earlier this year to form the Surgical Care Coalition to stop the Medicare physician payment cuts. It will continue “work with policymakers to find a sustainable fix that ensures patients will have access to quality surgical care, both during and after the pandemic,” said David Hoyt, MD, executive director of the American College of Surgeons. Read the SCC statement here.

More information on the legislation will be coming in the days ahead.

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