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Year-End Push for Medicare Fix:

December 13, 2023

Anesthesia Takes Action

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) this week released a statement in support of a bill moving through Congress that would prevent the Medicare payment reductions that have been scheduled to go into effect beginning in January. Calling them “destructive cuts,” the ASA is calling on federal legislators to immediately pass HR 6683, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 7.

Though the full text of this bill has not yet been published, it contains the following working description: “To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to increase support for physicians and other practitioners in adjusting to Medicare payment changes.” While this is a fairly nebulous description, the bill purports to mitigate or outright preclude the decreases in the conversion factors set for next year, according to those familiar with the legislation.

Our readers will recall that the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) final rule reduced both the anesthesia conversion factor and the Resource-Based Relative Value Scale (RBRVS) conversion factor by over three percentage points each. The finalized anesthesia conversion factor set for next year is $20.4349, a decrease of 3.27 percent (from $21.1249 in 2023), while the 2024 RBRVS conversion factor will be $32.7442 in 2024. This represents a decrease of 3.37 percent from the current rate.

ASA President Ronald L. Harter, M.D., FASA released the following statement relative to HR 6683:

We commend these lawmakers for their leadership on preventing this Medicare payment cut and their efforts to ensure the viability of the nation’s physician practices. Congress has a responsibility to act to preserve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to a full range of critical and essential health care services. As a result of years of continued cuts and freezes, Medicare payment rates for anesthesia services are virtually the same as they were in 1991—32 years ago. That is unacceptable and unsustainable.

The ASA sees passage of HR 6683—which puts a halt to the payment cuts—as the first order of business. Once these cuts are halted, the ASA wants Congress to turn its attention to the more comprehensive and long-term Medicare reimbursement system fix that would be addressed by a different bill: H.R. 2474, the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act. This legislation, if passed, would add a mandatory annual inflation update to Medicare physician payments and end the punitive budget neutrality mechanism.

Coronis recommends that all anesthesia providers who are concerned about the scheduled Medicare payment cuts for 2024 reach out to their U.S. representatives as soon as possible, as these types of year-end bills are often on a fast track for consideration. Take action and let them hear your voice! 

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