At the top of the list of priorities is preventing the scheduled year-end Medicare physician payment cuts
Dec. 16, 2022 (ACP) — As the end of the year approaches, the American College of Physicians is lobbying Congress to address a series of priorities that are crucial to protecting the health of Americans through 2023 and beyond.
“Time is of the essence as the clock is ticking on getting legislation passed before a new divided Congress is seated in January,” said George Lyons Jr., Esq., ACP director of legislative affairs.
The top ACP priority is legislation to preserve the stability of Medicare payment rates. “Congress must act to prevent year-end Medicare cuts adversely affecting physicians,” Lyons said. “Physician practices face arbitrary payment cuts of 4.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2023. In contrast, other sectors of the health care system are not facing these cuts and are scheduled to receive increases based on inflation.”
In a Dec. 1 letter, Dr. Ryan D. Mire, president of ACP, asked congressional leaders to take action quickly: “As many physicians are still struggling with the financial challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of annual positive inflationary updates in their Medicare reimbursement, we urge Congress to pass legislation that provides financial stability for our practices so that we can maintain access to care for our patients.”
ACP is also urging Congress to finalize and pass the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill for fiscal year 2023. “We strongly urge Congress to make much-needed investments in federal health care programs and initiatives designed to maintain and expand primary care, ensure an adequate physician workforce and promote public health,” explained Lyons. “We support adequately funding vital Health and Human Services agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Health Resources Services Administration.”
Specifically, ACP is calling for these expenditures for fiscal year 2023:
- Fund Title VII, Section 747, Primary Care Training and Enhancement at $71 million to distribute educational grants to primary care physician students, medical residents, fellows and faculty to enhance primary care provider recruitment.
- Fund the National Health Service Corps at $860 million. The program awards scholarships and loan repayment to health care professionals to help expand the country's primary care workforce and meet the health care needs of underserved communities across the country.
- Fund the Title X Family Planning Program at $400 million. ACP believes that it is essential for women to have access to affordable, comprehensive, nondiscriminatory public or private health care coverage that includes evidence-based care over the course of their life spans.
- Fund Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research at $60 million. ACP supports $35 million for the CDC and $25 million for the NIH to conduct public health research into firearm morbidity and mortality prevention.
- Fund Medicare Graduate Medical Education positions and pass the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, bipartisan legislation that would add 14,000 new Medicare-supported graduate medical education slots over seven years.
- Fund COVID-19 and mpox supplemental funding. ACP strongly supports the $10 billion in funding requested by the administration to continue access to lifesaving vaccines, antiviral treatments and COVID-19 testing during the ongoing public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. New additional funding is necessary to maintain the federal government's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and mpox outbreak.
The ACP message to Congress is that “federal investments in health care are needed and that continued short-term funding fosters uncertainty and makes it more difficult for federal health agencies to comprehensively prepare and respond to the health care needs of our patients,” Lyons said.
ACP reiterated that message in a Dec. 7 letter, to congressional appropriations leaders in conjunction with the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Osteopathic Association and American Psychiatric Association.
“The continuing resolution that currently funds the federal government ends on Dec. 16,” Lyons said. “Congress must act then to either extend the stop-gap funding resolution or pass the appropriations bills. We are hearing from Hill staff that Congress is willing to provide some funds to prevent some of the Medicare payment cuts, but there is still no agreement to stop the entire cut to physician payment.”
For now, ACP is calling on its members to email their congressional representatives to urge them to stop the Medicare physician pay cuts before the end of the year. The hashtag on social media is #stopthefullcut.