“The Clock Is Ticking”: ASHA, Allied Provider Groups Urge Legislative Action to Protect Medicare Beneficiaries’ Access to Services

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As Pandemic Rages, CMS Rule Puts America’s Seniors at Risk

The clock is ticking—these cuts will be implemented in 30 days. AOTA, APTA, and ASHA urge Congress to include H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, in any moving legislative vehicle before the end of the year.

In a move that will restrict Medicare beneficiaries’ access to a host of medically necessary services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) yesterday formalized significant payment reductions to more than three dozen health care provider groups for 2021. Audiologists will suffer a 6% cut and speech-language pathologists a 9% cut to Medicare reimbursement for their services. These reductions stand to put patients in jeopardy and risk the economic viability of health care practices, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

ASHA, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) are calling on Congress to take immediate action to offset the cuts in CMS’s 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. In a joint statement issued last night, the associations note: “The clock is ticking—these cuts will be implemented in 30 days. AOTA, APTA, and ASHA urge Congress to include H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, in any moving legislative vehicle before the end of the year. H.R. 8702 is bipartisan legislation that will address these cuts by providing relief payments in an amount that will ensure parity with current payment for impacted services.”

The groups explain: “Our members serve a critical role in the health and vitality of this nation, frequently evaluating and treating older adults with physical, cognitive, communication, psychosocial, hearing, and balance disorders. Our services help ensure that these beneficiaries have the functional stability required to remain safe and independent within their communities. The care we provide is all the more important to patients recovering from COVID-19.”

ASHA also joined a larger coalition of physician and nonphysician provider groups who are decrying CMS’s final rule. In a separate statement, these groups assert: “Thousands of comments submitted by providers, patients, and Members of Congress highlighted the importance of mitigating payment cuts associated with budget neutrality requirements triggered by higher payment and modified reporting requirements for evaluation and management (E/M) services. Due to CMS’s unresponsiveness to address these concerns, organizations representing more than 1 million physicians and nonphysician health care providers across the United States urge Congress to include legislation in any year-end package to prevent these arbitrary Medicare cuts in order to protect patient access to medically necessary services.”

According to ASHA, the timing of the cuts is especially bad, given that the pandemic is disproportionately impacting older Americans and that many health care practices have already reduced their staffs or shuttered due to economic strains of COVID-19. Cuts to reimbursement will compound this situation, making it even more difficult for patients to receive needed care. Those in rural and underserved areas would be the hardest hit.

For more information, visit ASHA’s website.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 211,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. http://www.asha.org

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Francine Pierson
ASHA
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