The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation to avert upcoming Medicare payment cuts following pressure from radiologists and other providers.
Lawmakers approved the bill in a 90-2 vote, preventing some $12.3 billion in reimbursement reductions for doctors, hospitals and nursing homes over the next nine months. The American College of Radiology and several other imaging groups recently cosigned a letter written by the American Medical Association, lobbying for the action last month.
“The Senate wisely acknowledged that cutting Medicare payments during a pandemic was ill-conceived policy,” AMA President Susan Bailey, MD, said March 25. “Physician practices are already distressed, and arbitrary 2 percent across-the-board Medicare cuts would have been devastating.”
The House just passed its own version of the bill last week. With Senators making changes—including removing a fix for $36 billion more in Medicare cuts slated for the year’s end, according to the Hill—representatives will need to take up bill again. AMA urged lawmakers to resolve this issue “swiftly” when they return from a congressional recess.
At issue are routine 2% Medicare sequester cuts. Congress previously delayed sequestration as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December, but the extension is set to end on March 31. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.—who sponsored the bill alongside Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine—said the pandemic has left providers reeling and reducing their pay would only make matters worse.
“New Hampshire’s hospitals, nursing facilities and other health care providers have suffered significant financial losses while responding to this pandemic in the communities they serve,” she said in a statement. “The last thing they need are cuts to federal funding they are relying on, like Medicare reimbursement payments, that are helping them keep the doors open and deal with increased expenses and revenue shortfalls during COVID-19.”