AMA President: Medicare Physician Pay Cuts Will Have ‘Dire’ Impact if Not Reversed

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Reversing the 3.37% Medicare pay cut that went into effect for physician practices on January 1 is a top priority for the American Medical Association, said Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, president of the organization.

“[The pay cut] is a disaster for the profession, so we are working day in and day out, hour by hour with our congressional partners to get that reversed,” Ehrenfeld declared last week during an interview at CES 2024 in Las Vegas. “If we don’t, it is going to have a dire, drastic impact on seniors’ access to healthcare all across America. … If you add it up, it’s a 10% reduction over the last four years in Medicare reimbursement. It’s just not sustainable.”

He made these comments ahead of Congress’ January 19 vote on the overall government funding bill, which includes Medicare payments. The AMA is urging physicians and patients to participate in the Fix Medicare Now campaign and contact Congress ahead of the vote to share their concerns on the payment cuts.

In particular, the AMA is in support of the Preserving Seniors’ Access to Physicians Act of 2023, which was recently introduced in the House of Representatives and would cancel the 3.37% payment cut to physicians. There is bipartisan support for the reversal of the cut as well, with nearly 200 members of Congress co-signing a December letter calling for legislation to prevent the cut.

What’s at stake if the 3.37% pay cut to physician practices isn’t reversed? Practices will either stop seeing Medicare patients entirely or stop accepting new Medicare patients, according to Ehrenfeld.

“This happened to my parents in Florida,” he stated. “Their physician just could not see Medicare patients anymore because of the payment cuts that continue to happen while inflation continues to rise. We know that more and more practices will make that very painful decision if Congress doesn’t act to at least keep physicians whole.”

Ehrenfeld added that the AMA is “optimistic” that the pay cut will be reversed due to bipartisan support. However, he noted that Congress has had issues passing legislation in the last year.

“Congress needs to show up and do their job and unfortunately, they have struggled to do that. This past year I think was one of the least productive Congresses in United States history. [There were more than] 700 bills, and 27 got signed into law,” Ehrenfeld said.

Physicians are the only group that doesn’t receive an automatic annual increase based on the Medicare Economic Index to support increasing business expenses, according to the AMA. If physicians were to get the same adjustments as hospitals and other healthcare professionals, their payments would have seen a 4.6% increase in 2024.

The Medicare payment decrease is further exacerbating the burnout issue that many physicians are facing right now, Ehrenfeld said.

“There are many components that are driving burnout: the system inefficiencies, the burden of prior authorization, administrative requirements, a 3% pay cut,” he said. “We need to continue to work on that.”

Photo: Mbve7642, Getty Images

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