Proposed Medicare Cuts Threaten Anesthesiology Practices Already Struggling Amid Pandemic

September 15, 2020
MHE Staff

American Society of Anesthesiologists opposes drastic payment reduction for critical services.

Medicare has proposed drastic cuts to its payment rates for important healthcare services, threatening the practices of physician anesthesiologists who have been on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists(ASA) opposes these detrimental payment reductions, and urges Congress to take action to override the budget neutrality requirements that are the cause for these cuts and thereby ensure physician anesthesiologists can continue to care for their patients while being more fairly compensated for their work.

During the pandemic, the important role of physicians – the foundation of our nation’s healthcare system – has never been more evident. More has been asked of them than ever before, and they shouldn't be threatened by funding cuts that make the economic status of their practices less stable.

“Physician anesthesiologists are at the forefront of the pandemic. With their medical expertise in anesthesiology and critical care – specifically intubation and ventilation – they are taking care of critically ill patients and putting themselves at risk by working inches away from patients’ airways, where the virus is transmitted,” said ASA President Mary Dale Peterson, M.D., MSHCA, FACHE, FASA. “These proposed payment reductions will hurt practices already weakened by the economy. Now is not the time for payment cuts to frontline physicians.”

Each year, Medicare releases proposed payment rates for physicians. Federal law requires payment increases for services paid in the fee schedule must be offset by a reduction in others when the total spending surpasses the outdated threshold. If a specialty does not perform the services that are increasing, the impact can be severe and significant, directly effecting the ability to care for patients. In the recently released rates, the specialty of anesthesiology will have its Medicare rates reduced close to those set in 1991, 30 years ago.

ASA urges Congress to eliminate the requirement to offset payment increases with cuts and remove this threat to physician anesthesiologists’ practices at a time when their expertise and critical care skills have never been more important.

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