What Now? The Same Old Song and Dance Around Medicare Payments

The erosion won't stop until there is a real crisis of access to physicians

A recent “Chart of the Week,” shown below, accurately describes how Medicare payments to physicians have been lagging for years and continue to do so.

The situation perfectly describes the “death by a thousand paper cuts” scenario. The physician community has grown used to the same old cadenced routine:

  • Threatened Part B cuts arise in CMS’ Medicare Physician Fee Schedule
  • Urgent messaging from our national organizations to contact Congress
  • Last-minute Band-Aid fixes to Medicare physician payments that are below our expectations

In fairness to CMS, they are only following the law. The Sustainable Growth Rate debacle was supposed to be fixed by MACRA, yet here we are again. The “experts” complain about the ever-increasing costs of healthcare while our reimbursements fail to keep pace with inflation.

The bottom line is this: Congress will not act unless it is under significant pressure. As long as physicians continue to “go with the flow,” lawmakers will divert their attention to other issues. The AAOS Office of Government Relations does a fantastic job lobbying for our interests, but until there is a crisis in access to physicians, there will be no meaningful reform.

The optics won’t be pretty, but it is the only way for this erosion to stop.