Tester Leads Bipartisan Group Demanding Senate Leadership Prevent Physician Payment Cuts

Senator rallies colleagues against Administration proposal to cut Medicare payments for surgeons, specialists, therapists, and other medical professionals

Following up on his efforts to prevent reimbursement cuts for certain Medicare providers earlier this year, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a bipartisan group of colleagues in demanding that Senate Leadership work to avert a Trump Administration decision to decrease Medicare payments for certain medical professionals like physical therapists, occupational therapists, audiologists, and social workers.

Tester is urging Senate Leadership to address reimbursement rate changes recently finalized by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as part of their Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) for 2021. The proposal would significantly cut payments for many Medicare providers in the midst of a global public health crisis and poses a significant risk to patients in rural communities who already struggle to access quality care.

“Health care professionals across the spectrum are reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 emergency as they continue to serve patients during this global pandemic,” wrote Tester and his colleagues in a letter to Senate Leadership. “The payment cuts finalized by CMS would pose a threat to providers and their patients under any circumstances, but during a pandemic the impact is even more profound. Therefore, we hope to work with you to address this critical issue.”

The rate changes are intended to increase code values and reimbursement rates for in-office, outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) services, which are required for the majority of patient visits. While most Medicare providers recognize the need to increase the value of E/M codes, the cuts that CMS proposed to justify these increases will result in payment reductions for provider groups in 2021 during a time when all health care professionals are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Tester has been fighting tooth and nail to ensure that medical professionals and health care workers have the tools they need to stay safe and healthy. Earlier this year, he wrote to CMS Administrator Seema Verma expressing concerns about the impacts of payment cuts for non-physician providers and its impact on rural communities. He also recently secured $3 million for 14 Montana community health centers to expand COVID-19 testing, and delivered nearly $200 million in relief funding for 121 rural Montana hospitals, health centers, and clinics.

Read Tester’s full letter to Senate Leadership HERE.