Appropriations Package Reverses About Half the Cut to Medicare Payments for 2024

Advocate Masthead

ACP disappointed that cut was not fully reversed, emphasizing that it comes in addition to inflation and rising practice expenses

March 22, 2024 (ACP) -- The American College of Physicians is disappointed that Congress failed to fully reverse Medicare payment cuts when it passed an appropriations package in early March.

"While we appreciate that Congress partly addressed the issue, leaving half the cut in place means that physician practices are still dealing with a major shortfall for this year," said Dr. Omar T. Atiq, president of ACP. "This payment cut comes on top of physician payments from Medicare being held flat over the past two decades, while inflation and practice expenses have continued to rise. For years, physicians have struggled with this broken Medicare payment system that creates financial instability for medical practices, instability that in turn poses a risk to patients' access to care."

The action by Congress restores about half of the 3.36 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements that went into effect on Jan. 1, explained Jared Frost, ACP manager for legislative affairs and ACP Services PAC. "We would have liked to have seen all that taken care of, but Congress did not do that," Frost said.

The good news for internal medicine physicians is that Congress allowed the new G2211 add-on code to stay in place. ACP is a strong supporter of the code, which addresses the complexity inherent in office and outpatient evaluation and management services, according to Frost. Physicians may use the code to replace some of the reimbursement that they will lose due to this year's Medicare cuts. "It will help them be reimbursed for services they're delivering but haven't been captured before, such as management of conditions and extra time dealing with the patient or coordinating care," Frost said.

ACP was pleased that several vital programs received funding via the appropriations bill:

  • $4.27 billion for community health centers -- which started on Oct. 1, 2023, the beginning of the fiscal year 2024 -- is extended through the end of the 2024 calendar year.
  • The National Health Service Corps is extended through the end of calendar year 2024 for an annual rate of $345 million per year, a $35 million increase from current funding levels.
  • The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program is extended through the end of calendar year 2024 at an annual rate of $175 million, a $48.5 million increase from current funding levels.

However, ACP believes these programs should be funded over three- or four-year periods to provide stability and certainty. "At the end of 2024," Frost said, "Congress will have to scramble yet again to fund these three vital programs and will probably do it piecemeal and short term. In this environment, it is harder for physicians to serve their patients and make long-term planning and hiring decisions."

Meanwhile, Congress is trying to resolve differences over a second appropriations bill that includes funding for ACP priorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"We're anxious to see what those funding levels will be," Frost said. "We anticipate that funding will be flat or even cut. They're probably not going to see funding increases."

Health Day Logo

Back to the March 22, 2024 issue of ACP Advocate