Senators introduce bill to avert millions in ‘misguided’ Medicare reimbursement cuts

Five Republican U.S. Senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would avert millions in reimbursements cuts to radiologists and other physician specialists.

The Surgical Care Coalition revealed the news Dec. 10, noting that the bill mirrors the “Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020,” previously introduced in the House. Radiology advocacy groups have pushed hard for the legislation’s passage in recent weeks, as part of an alliance of 74 medical groups.  

The Surgical Care Coalition—representing 12 professional associations and more than 150,000 physicians—applauded the proposal and its five sponsors Thursday. They include John Boozman, R-Arkansas; Kevin Cramer R-North Dakota; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi; Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas; and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“Our nation’s physicians are under incredible strain due to COVID-19, and this bill begins to correct a misguided and ill-timed policy that would cut healthcare spending in the middle of a pandemic,” David Hoyt, MD, executive director of the American College of Surgeons, said in a statement.

Three of the senators signaled their support for such action earlier this month, signing a letter alongside 47 of their colleagues. Nearly 330 bipartisan members of the House and Senate have urged Congress to address this issue, the surgery coalition noted.

Radiologists have long known these changes were coming, but got the final confirmation with the release of 2021’s Medicare Physician Fee Schedule on Dec. 2. CMS’ plans to boost payment for primary care and other office-based services next year, requiring offsetting reductions on the backs of specialists, due to budget-neutrality requirements. The Senate proposal would offset these changes by granting radiologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons and others with make-whole payments over the next two years.

Absent congressional action, a recent analysis estimated that diagnostic radiologists stand to see their pay drop 10%, versus 8% for both interventional rads and physicians in nuclear medicine.