WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is disappointed and dismayed by the final 2021 Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) rule recently released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This rule—which will take effect on January 1, 2021—includes drastic cuts to emergency medicine physicians and other vital medical specialties.
“Emergency physicians and other health care providers battling on the frontlines of the ongoing pandemic are already under unprecedented financial strain as they continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19,” said Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, president of ACEP. “These cuts would have a devastating impact for the future of emergency medicine and could seriously impede patients’ access to emergency care when they need it most.”
Due to the budget neutrality requirements under the PFS, reimbursement for lifesaving, emergency treatment care delivered to Medicare patients will be decreased by 6 percent in 2021. After CMS first proposed this steep cut over the summer, ACEP provided specific policy recommendations to the agency that would completely eliminate or at least mitigate the reduction—but unfortunately none of them were ultimately incorporated. Instead, CMS chose to finalize a cut that will reverberate beyond just Medicare to other payors including private insurance, which often structure their payments to emergency physicians and other providers based on these Medicare rates. This will result in significant reimbursement reductions as well as widespread uncertainty and disruption across the system.
Now that the final rule has been released, the only way to prevent these devastating cuts from taking place is for Congress to act by passing legislation that holds physicians harmless. ACEP, along with a coalition of organizations representing more than 1 million physicians and allied health professionals, support including the “Holding Providers Harmless From Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020” in any forthcoming year-end legislative package. The bill—introduced by Representatives Ami Bera, MD (D-CA) and Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN)—would temporarily maintain for the next two years physicians’ reimbursement in Medicare at 2020 levels if they were otherwise scheduled to receive a payment cut.
“Emergency physicians have courageously faced a global pandemic that has shaken our health care system to its core, unwavering in their commitment to their patients despite potentially deadly exposure to the disease for themselves and their families,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “Congress must act now in order for them to continue playing this vital role in our communities.”