Neurosurgeons fight Medicare’s payment cuts to preserve quality and access to care in an already stressed health care system due to COVID-19.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) are fighting the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The uproar from the neurosurgery community comes from the estimated 7% payment cuts they will face at a time that our health care system is already under stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reductions come from new policies for office and outpatient visits that the CMS will put into motion on January 1, 2021. The neurosurgery community argues that any cuts or changes to evaluation and management codes will compromise patient access to care and longer wait times.
According to Ann R. Stoink, MD, FAANS, a practicing neurosurgeon from Bloomington, Illinois, and chair for the AANS/CNS Washington Committee, states, “Now is not the time to reduce payments for surgical care, and if implemented as is, the Medicare payment rule will challenge an already fragile health care system.” Members from the Surgical Care Coalition and other groups are asking Congress to waive Medicare’s budget neutrality to prevent these cuts and to require that CMS apply an increase to the evaluation and management payments.
A survey conducted by the coalition found that: 74% of neurosurgeons are concerned about the finances of their practice. 38% have cut their own salary and 24% have taken on debt just to keep their doors open as a result of COVID-19. Over 76% are worried that they will have to cut employee’s salaries or permanently layoff employees.
“This was an ill-informed and dangerous policy for patients even before the pandemic started but could be even more detrimental as our health care system continues to weaken under COVID-19. If finalized, this proposal could result in neurosurgeons taking fewer Medicare patients leading to longer wait times and reduced access to care for older Americans, so Congress must act now to prevent this from happening,” Dr. Stroink concluded.
Source: Katie O. Orrico – American Association of Neurological Surgeons
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