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Medical professionals urge Congress to retain Medicare sequester pause


Congress paused Medicare sequester cuts to offer relief amid the pandemic. Now, the leaders of the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Health Care Association, and National Association for Home Care & Hospice are urging congressional leadership to keep the pause in place.

The leaders of four national healthcare organizations this week called on leaders in Congress to extend the current moratorium on Medicare sequester cuts into 2021 and after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has run its course.

The leaders of the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Health Care Association, and National Association for Home Care & Hospice all signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Leaders Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Chuck Schumer seeking the extension.

The leaders noted that health-care professionals, agencies and facilities have all been hit hard by the pandemic. As a result, they also have experienced significant expenses to treat patients. They also have lost money as a result of the decrease in inpatient and outpatient services.

Related: AMA supports House plan to ease Medicare loan repayment terms

“We are concerned that persistent high COVID-19 rates will continue to stress the entire health care system,” they wrote. “Our members provide health care to the more than 62 million Medicare beneficiaries. We urge you to pass legislation that would extend the congressionally-enacted moratorium on the application of the Medicare sequester cuts into 2021 and through the duration of the public health emergency (PHE).”

Medicare sequester were part of a 2011 deal to prevent the country from hitting the federal debt ceiling. The deal known as the Budget Control Act has reduced Medicare reimbursements to providers by 2 percent across the board since 2013.

Congress paused Medicare sequester cuts through the end of 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in March 2020.

“Given that the PHE is certain to continue into 2021, it is a safe assumption that America’s health care providers will continue to face the overwhelming financial challenges and pressures associated with higher overhead costs due to personal protective equipment and other safeguards, lost revenue due to delayed elective procedures and/or forgone routine visits, and hazard pay to staff,” they wrote.

Related: COVID-19 pandemic driving jump in Medicaid enrollment

The leaders also expressed their gratitude that Congress since May has provided much-needed reprieve from the Medicare sequestration.

“This relief helped to improve what was, and continues to be, the relatively dire financial outlook for many of our members,” they wrote.

The organizations noted that in some cases, the 2% cut would essentially negate the Medicare inflation adjustment health care providers depend on and would otherwise receive in 2021.

“Clearly the cost of providing care to patients continues to increase. Without future sequestration relief, America’s health care safety net could be at further risk of collapse,” they concluded. “As such, we respectfully ask that Congress pass legislation this year that further postpones the application of this harmful 2% cut for the duration of the PHE in 2021.”

Congressional leaders have been working to pass another COVID-19 relief package to boost the economy amid the pandemic. Efforts to pass a package stalled and talks likely won’t resume until after Election Day.

Read more COVID-19-related coverage here

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