Medicare: Surgical Care Coalition urges Congress to halt proposed cuts to care

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The proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for calendar year 2022 (CY2022) released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) fails to address pending cuts to surgical care “and therefore continues to threaten patient care by reaffirming these previously imposed misguided cuts,” according to the Surgical Care Coalition, of which the Society for Vascular Surgery is a member.

CMS is proposing to cut the Medicare conversion factor—the basic starting point for calculating Medicare payments—for CY2022 by 3.75%. This year’s drop is reinstating the cut that Congress prevented last year, which further emphasizes the need for continued congressional intervention to protect patient care, the coalition said. By some estimates, vascular surgical procedures are set to incur some of the steepest cuts under the proposed rule.

“Vascular Surgeons not only provide surgical care when indicated, but a tremendous amount of pre- and post-surgery medical management and long-term care, often for the rest of patients’ lives, for millions of seniors covered primarily by Medicare,” said Ali AbuRahma, MD, Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) president. “If these cuts proceed, the elderly population in this country will face an enormous crisis of access to quality care, not only surgical care, but support in decision-making and lifelong medical management for optimal vascular health.”

Updates to the conversion factor have failed to keep up with inflation. The result is that the conversion factor is only about 50% of what it would have been if it had been indexed to general inflation as it had been prior to 1998.

“While CMS is taking notable strides to improve health equity and access to care, today’s proposed rule maintains the cuts to surgical care that Congress stopped last year. These cuts harm the care patients need and deserve, which is the opposite of what CMS is trying to achieve,” said David B. Hoyt, MD, American College of Surgeons executive director. “Without congressional action, surgical care faces a significant payment cut and threatens patient access to critical treatments and procedures. All patients deserve a healthcare system that invests in surgical care and does not create uncertainty year after year.”

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