New legislation introduced to protect patient access to surgical care

Bill from Representatives Bera, Bucshon, and six lead co-sponsors will stop Medicare cuts to protect patients and surgeons

CHICAGO (October 30, 2020): Representatives Ami Bera, MD (CA-7) and Larry Bucshon, MD (IN-8), along with Representatives Brendan Boyle (PA-2), Raul Ruiz, MD (CA-36), Abby Finkenauer (IA-1), George Holding (NC-2), Phil Roe, MD (TN-1), and Roger Marshall, MD (KS-1) introduced legislation today that will protect patients’ access to surgical care by stopping cuts to Medicare payments for surgical specialties.

The Holding Providers Harmless From Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020 will prevent the Medicare payment cuts from taking place on January 1, 2021. This will safeguard patient access to quality surgical care and ensure that no physicians will experience payment cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We applaud Reps. Bera and Bucshon for their leadership in introducing this bipartisan legislation, which will ensure patients continue to have access to the surgical care they need,” said ACS Executive Director David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS. “The ACS strongly supports The Holding Providers Harmless From Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, which would provide a critical lifeline to surgeons who are facing drastic Medicare payment cuts that will be devastating to patients and the physicians who care for them.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this year announced a new Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, which cut Medicare payments to some surgical specialties by up to 9 percent. If Congress fails to act, the cuts will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Cuts of this extent would be harmful to patients even without the pandemic, but the added burden of COVID-19 will make it significantly harder for older Americans to access care when and where they need it. A survey conducted by the American College of Surgeons found that the cuts will force another third of America’s surgeons to reduce their Medicare intake. Another survey conducted by the Surgical Care Coalition earlier this year found that as a result of the pandemic, one-in-three private practice surgeons may have to shut their practices.

“With CMS’s planned physician payment cuts for surgical services, patients who rely on Medicare for their medical treatment may encounter issues with accessing care, while further impacting the financial health of physicians and their practices during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Hoyt. “Reps. Bera and Bucshon are also physicians, and they understand the impact these cuts will have on patients. We look forward to working with them toward enacting this legislation.”

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