Physicians draw attention to Medicare cuts as PAD Awareness Month kicks off

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A coalition of physicians and other interested parties focused on peripheral arterial disease (PAD) has called on Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take action to avoid proposed payment cuts that would hammer vascular care, potentially harming access to specialty services.

The CardioVascular Coalition (CVC)—also made up of other care providers, advocates and device manufacturers—issued the plea at the outset of PAD Awareness Month, which started on Sept. 1.

CMS recently proposed cutting payments for revascularization services by approximately 23% in the proposed Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Rule for 2022, the coalition said in a press release.

CMS is proposing to cut the Medicare conversion factor—the basic starting point for calculating Medicare payments—for 2022 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, advocates have said. By some estimates, vascular surgical procedures are set to incur some of the steepest cuts under the proposed rule.

The proposed rule would hit commonly performed office-based PAD revascularization codes, according to reports.

“The proposed cuts, which are being driven by a provision that purports to update clinical labor data, would have a severe impact on cardiology, vascular surgery, venous, radiation oncology, and radiology practices,” the CVC said in its release. “Though outpatient health services—including revascularization—are cost-effective and convenient for patients, the proposed cuts would have profoundly negative effects on patient access and health equity. If the proposed cuts are finalized as currently proposed, Medicare beneficiaries will face more serious risks of limb loss.”

Earlier this summer, the Surgical Care Coalition—of which the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) is a member—said the fee schedule failed to address pending cuts to surgical care and continued to threaten patient care by reaffirming “previously imposed misguided cuts.”

Jeff Carr, MD, a CVC board member, said CMS “must reverse course and not finalize the clinical labor policy in the 2022 PFS Proposed Rule” in order to address the issues of patient access and systemic health inequity in the U.S. “Further, CMS should work closely with Congress to fundamentally reform the Physician Fee Schedule so that any future unjustified cuts to specialty provider services can be avoided,” he added.

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