A bipartisan group of representatives has introduced a bill into the House that would undo a 2024 physician pay cut finalized last month by the Biden administration.
The 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule included a decrease in the conversion factor, which is used to calculate Medicare payments to doctors, that translated to a 3.37% pay decrease from 2023. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the cut was necessary to offset increases in payment for other specific types of services, including visits for primary and longitudinal care visits.
Still, the rule’s proposal and final version were broadly opposed by physicians. Just a couple weeks after the pay cut was finalized, about 120 state and national healthcare organizations including the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association penned a letter (PDF) to Congress warning that physicians would “be forced to reduce available healthcare services, cut office hours or even forgo treating Medicare patients altogether” should they not intercede before the year’s end.
The plea has proven persuasive for at least a handful of legislators. On Thursday, Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., introduced the so-called “Preserving Seniors’ Access to Physicians Act of 2023” (H.R.6683) that would rewrite parts of the Social Security Act to nix the 3.37% cut slated to go into effect on Jan. 1.
Reps. Greg Murphy, M.D., R-N.C., Danny Davis, D-Ill., Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M., R-Ohio, Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Larry Bucshon, M.D., R-Ind., and Michael Burgess, M.D., R-Texas, cosponsored the bill. It has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as the Committee of Ways and Means.
In a Friday morning statement, AMA President Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D., welcomed the bill with open arms.
"As of today, patients and physicians have a clear-eyed view on how to protect Medicare from injurious cuts,” Ehrenfeld said. “These cuts threaten health care access for seniors as well as the viability of physician practices, including many in rural and underserved areas. Canceling the cut is a good New Year's resolution."
The scheduled cuts for 2024 follow a 2% payment reduction for physicians in 2023. The AMA has previously shared data that, after adjusting for inflation and practice costs, show Medicare payments to physicians have declined 26% from 2001 to 2023.
The AMA and others have been quick to point to the Medicare Economic Index—a measure of inflation in medical practice costs—increase of 4.6%. In other words, “the cost of running a practice will increase 4.6% in 2024, yet physicians are being subjected to a 3.37% cut next year,” healthcare organizations wrote in last month’s letter to Congress.
In March, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommended a physician payment update tied to the Medicare Economic Index for the first time. In this week's meeting for the next round of draft guidance, the group's experts landed on a minor recommended pay increase of 1.3% for 2025.