Physical, occupational and speech language therapy providers would receive critical relief from the scheduled 9% cut in Medicare payments under newly introduced federal legislation. 

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) last Thursday unveiled the bill, S. 5007, which aims to hold providers harmless from cuts to Medicare services through 2022, explained the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation. 

“The legislation represents a much-needed legislative fix that would protect specialty providers and Medicare beneficiaries from draconian reimbursement reductions while still allowing significant reimbursement increases for evaluation and management (E/M) services included in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Final Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Rule for CY2021,” the organization said in a statement.

CMS in early December finalized its calendar 2021 physician pay rule, which slashes therapy payments for nursing home patients by 9%. The rule will be effective Jan. 1, 2021.

A step forward

The bill is a step in the right direction as the new year inches closer, noted Cynthia Morton, executive vice president of the National Association of Support for Long Term Care. She added that it’s difficult to tell how likely the measure will be passed given the time constraints.  

“There is very little time left for action on this issue, as we expect this next week is maybe the last week of this Congress [and] it could slip and go longer,” Morton told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Friday. 

“We are taking the right steps in obtaining the signatures on the letter and with the bill introduction,” Morton explained. 

“It does help that more than 40 medical specialties are impacted by the regulation and all these organizations are pushing this issue, so we believe that the House and Senate are hearing from a lot of people on this. We need Congress to act now because if they don’t, the cuts go into effect on January 1 and we will have to deal with this issue in a new Congress,” she added. 

Letter to leaders

The legislative proposal comes just days after Boozman and a group of bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Senate leaders calling on them to ensure that any year-end legislative package addresses the “dangers decision to several cut physician payments.”

“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,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“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,” they added.