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Sat Nov 21, 2020, 02:53 PM

Drastic cuts proposed to Medicare would hurt health care quality

Dr. Beverly K. Philip, opinion contributor

The drastic cuts Medicare has proposed to payment rates for hospital-based providers in 2021 have my blood boiling and should make anyone who believes in access to high-quality health care feel the same.

It's caught the attention of lawmakers. In fact, just last month, a letter signed by more than 220 bipartisan members of Congress was sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), pleading for action before the end of the year to protect a health care system already stressed by COVID-19 and to ensure patient access to care.

So what's the issue? Each year, the rate Medicare pays for some services can change. By 2021, some services and some physicians will receive payment increases. Unfortunately, due to a longstanding problem in Medicare law, when some services and physicians get payment increases, others must receive offsetting payment decreases - a hunger games scenario. This is bad news for physician anesthesiologists.

Their payments for high-risk services provided on the front lines during the pandemic will be cut an unprecedented 10 percent. Medicare payment rates have not kept up with inflation for years, which makes the cuts hurt even more, especially for physician anesthesiologists. Their Medicare payment rates will be reduced to virtually the same level as Medicare was paying in 1991 - 30 years ago. Does any other government contractor get paid at 1991 rates?



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