Every year since the late 1990’s, Congress has ‘balanced’ the budget by declaring a pay cut to doctors’ Medicare services. Every year, after the budget for the next year is revealed, this cut is rescinded.
Again, next year, a number of physicians and medical specialists were facing sharp Medicare pay cuts. This was to come, of course, in the face of the worst pandemic in our lifetimes and one which has worn so many physicians and nurses to the point of exhaustion.
Medicare’s 2021 physician fee schedule would’ve cut payments for radiology by 10%; physical/occupational therapy by 9%; anesthesiology and cardiac surgery by 8%; critical care by 7%; general surgery by 6%, and infectious disease by 4%.
As part of the economic stimulus bill just passed by Congress those sharp cuts have been put on pause.
According to the president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, “The bill throws a lifeline to caregivers by continuing the pause in the 2% Medicare sequester, and making adjustments to buffer the impact of an ill-conceived change in physician payments during a pandemic.”
The legislation now calls for a “one-time, one-year increase in the Medicare physician fee schedule of 3.75 percent” in 2021 “to provide relief during the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
This is good news. While we have disagreements with some doctors over things like surprise medical billings, this year has taught us how critical and valuable to us all are our medical personnel. This certainly was no time to try to balance the budget on the backs of those who have borne the weight of so many of us this year.