On December 10th President Biden signed into law S. 610, “Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act”, that Congress approved hours earlier addressing the looming 9% Medicare payments cuts scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2022. The legislation also provided a legislative pathway for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling limit. The bill includes the following Medicare provisions:
- Increases the Medicare conversion factor rate for physicians by 3% for calendar year 2022 (under the 2022 fee schedule final rule CMS cut the conversion factor by 3.75%).
- Further delays the 2% Medicare sequestration cuts for three months, through March 31, 2022, followed by a 1% cut for the subsequent three months and full reinstatement of the 2% sequestration cut on July 1, 2022.
- Delays the 4% statutory PAYGO cuts through December 31, 2022.
S. 610 also delays for one year a radiation oncology payment model and eliminates a 15% reduction in payments for clinical diagnostic lab tests for 2022 and then extends the 15% reduction through 2025.
With the enactment of this legislation, CMS will soon be publishing a new 2022 conversion factor rate to reflect the new 3% payment adjustment. Under the 2022 fee schedule final rule the conversion factor was previously set at $33.59, a decrease of $1.30 from the CY 2021 fee schedule conversion factor of $34.89. To find the new 2022 conversion factor rate when that information becomes available, please visit the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/PhysicianFeeSched.
The Medicare payment cut relief was the result of a strong, sustained advocacy effort by the entire physician community. Many thanks to all AUGS members who supported this effort by contacting their Members of Congress to urge action to stop the Medicare cuts.
Earlier this month Congress also approved legislation to avert a federal government shutdown. A Continuing Resolution (CR) that provides current Fiscal Year 2021 level funding for federal programs through February 18th was approved by Congress on December 2nd, just a day before the previous CR was set to expire at midnight December 3rd.
Significant disagreements on broad funding allocations for defense and non-defense programs continue to stall final congressional action on the Fiscal Year 2022 spending bills. Congressional leaders now have some breathing room to iron out differences on broad spending parameters and move forward with finalizing Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations before February 18, 2022.
The stalemate is particularly unfortunate because non-controversial federal programs, such as the National Institutes of Health, which enjoy broad bipartisan support are all victims of the broader political dispute. Funding for these programs will remain in limbo at current Fiscal Year 2021 levels until the stalemate is resolved.
We hope all AUGS advocates rest up, enjoy the holidays, and come back ready in the new year to support advocacy activities to help advance AUGS legislative and regulatory priorities.