Medicare & Medicaid

Let Congress know: Medicare physician pay cuts are a no-go

Tanya Albert Henry , Contributing News Writer

AMA News Wire

Let Congress know: Medicare physician pay cuts are a no-go

Jan 16, 2024

What’s the news: With just days left before Congress is scheduled to pass the omnibus appropriations bill that will determine whether the 3.37% Medicare pay cut that hit physician practices Jan. 1 will stay intact or be partially or totally eliminated, it is time for physicians and patients to tell lawmakers their concerns to ensure they cancel the cut.

The AMA is advocating for you

The AMA has achieved recent wins in 5 critical areas for physicians.

The AMA is encouraging physicians and patients to take part in the grassroots Fix Medicare Now campaign and to call, write or email their members of Congress before the Jan. 19 vote scheduled on the bill that will set the federal budget for the coming year.

The AMA is fully behind the Preserving Seniors’ Access to Physicians Act of 2023, recently introduced in the House of Representatives. The measure, H.R. 6683, would cancel the entirety of the 3.37% cut, and a bipartisan group of nearly 200 members of Congress has co-signed a letter (PDF) urging congressional leaders to expeditiously pass legislation to address the Medicare payment cuts.

Physicians and patients can visit the AMA’s Fix Medicare Now website to write their congressional representatives to support this critical legislation.

“There is nothing that is impossible, so keep the pressure up,” Rob Jordan, the AMA’s vice president of political affairs, said during a webinar tackling the latest on Medicare payment legislation and how to get involved.

Beyond Jan. 19, it’s imperative that U.S. senators and representatives continue to hear grassroots voices and stories so that the physician Medicare payment system can be fixed once and for all, said AMA Board Chair Willie Underwood III, MD, MSc, MPH, who moderated the webinar.

He said it is important for physicians to work together in their efforts and not to think of themselves as rural or urban physicians, or as surgeons, or internists, or as employed, private practice or academic physicians.

“We are physicians and we have to be in this as one—together in all 50 states, in all specialties, lockstep, to say enough is enough ... and now is the time to fix this,” he said.

Leading the charge to reform Medicare pay is the first pillar of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

The AMA has challenged Congress to work on systemic reforms and make Medicare work better for you and your patients. Our work will continue, fighting tirelessly against future cuts—and against all barriers to patient care.

Why it’s important: Running a practice and caring for patients is becoming unsustainable for physicians. This year’s 3.37% Medicare physician pay cut comes on top of the 2% cut physicians saw in 2023. When adjusted for inflation, the payment rate to physicians who care for Medicare patients is 26% less than it was in 2001

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Physicians fall into the only group that does not automatically get an annual increase based on the Medicare Economic Index to cover the rising costs of doing business. If physicians got the same adjustments that hospitals and other health professionals are getting, doctors would have seen a 4.6% increase in payment in 2024. 

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The Senate Finance and the House Energy and Commerce committees have marked up legislation that would provide partial relief—1.25%—from the Medicare cuts. But the Preserving Seniors’ Access to Physicians Act represents the best opportunity to advance legislation to eliminate the cuts entirely.

Grassroots efforts are cutting through the Beltway noise, said Jason Marino, the AMA’s director of congressional affairs. He encouraged physicians and patients to keep telling their stories.

“You often hear about a hospital that is going to close down in a community. It’s a big deal. It’s a local news story. … When the physician practice is struggling and might close, the immediate community may know, but not everyone around will hear about it. It’s not a local news story. It kind of happens quietly and it’s not really tracked,” Marino said. “So, it’s very important that our voices are heard right now, in that we are having a cut and this is what it means.”

You can’t just rely on statistics and charts to make a case to lawmakers, he said. They need to hear stories about how a relative can’t find a physician or what a physician practice shutting down in the community would mean for patients.

“Tell the story in your own terms so that people don’t just think that when we talk about Medicare payment it’s about dollars into a physician’s pocket. It’s not,” Marino noted. “It’s about staff. It’s about software to run your HIT systems. It’s to retain your employees. It’s investing in equipment and supplies. It’s the cost to operate your practice. ... And what would happen if all these small practices slowly went away.”

Learn more: The AMA's Medicare Basics series provides an in-depth, straightforward look at key elements of the payment system and why they are in need of reform.

Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to find out what’s at stake in reforming Medicare payment and other advocacy priorities the AMA is actively working on.

Fix Medicare now