Final Spending Bill Falls Short in Offsetting Fee Schedule Cuts


The omnibus package likely to pass provides insufficient relief, but it does include several wins for the profession in other areas.

In a disappointing response to advocacy that brought the concerns of millions of health care providers to Capitol Hill, the U.S. Congress is poised to approve an end-of-year spending package that fails to fully restore cuts included in the 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. Rather than provide the needed full 4.5% in funding that would offset reductions in the conversion factor, lawmakers opted for a smaller 2.5% increase this year and an even smaller 1.25% increase in 2024. The resulting cuts will affect 27 specialties, including physical therapy.

The spending decision was included in sweeping omnibus legislation that incorporates elements of multiple bills whose fates hadn't been resolved. While the resulting last-minute legislative mixed bag is short on fee schedule fixes, the bill does include APTA-supported gains in other areas including telehealth, workforce diversity, lymphedema treatment, and the role of PTs and PTAs in the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

'Failure to Fully Commit to Protecting Patient Access'

For the health care provider community, the most significant feature of the omnibus package — the provision of a 2.5% conversion factor funding increase rather than the needed 4.5% infusion — was the final chapter in a yearlong fight to convince Congress to once again intervene to buffer the harm included in the upcoming Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.

As it has for the past two years, in 2022 the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized a fee schedule for 2023 that offsets increases to payment for codes related to evaluation and management with significant cuts to the conversion factor, a key element used in determining payment associated with codes used by a wide range of providers.

APTA and 100 other provider and patient organizations joined in an effort to press Congress to provide a 4.5% spending increase to fully offset the fee schedule cuts. In the end, rather than stepping in at the 11th hour to provide full or nearly full offsets as it did for the past two years, Congress opted to scale back the relief. 

While the 2.5% funding increase will lessen the severity of the cuts, providers will still be left to deal with reductions just as the country's health care system continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The response from provider groups was immediate, with organizations such as the American Medical Association and the Surgical Care Coalition expressing their frustration at Congress’ failure to provide the full 4.5% funding.

Read Full Article