'Thin gruel': Groups react to 2024 Medicare physician payment rule

CMS released its 2024 physician fee schedule final rule Nov. 2, which updates the conversion factor to $32.74, a 3.4% decrease from last year. The announcement was not a welcome one for physician groups. 

"This is a recipe for financial instability," American Medical Association President Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, said in a Nov. 2 statement "Patients and physicians will wonder why such thin gruel is being served."

Dr. Ehrenfeld said physicians have routinely faced cuts over the past two decades, "yet, there is nothing routine about the past few years." 

"Physicians have faced the COVID pandemic and subsequent burnout," he said. "They have seen the costs soar for running a medical practice, while Medicare payment updates have offered too little relief."

"There is widespread acknowledgement that access to care is being threatened. The declining revenues in the face of steep cost increases disproportionately affect small, independent, and rural physician practices, as well as those treating low-income or other historically minoritized or marginalized patient communities."

Medical Group Management Association Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Anders Gilberg said the "substantial reduction" to the 2024 Medicare conversion factor further increases the gap between physician practice expenses and reimbursement rates, and dangerously impedes beneficiary access to care.  

"Thankfully, CMS heeded our call and refrained from increasing the [Merit-based Incentive Payment System] performance threshold from 75 to 82 points, which by its own estimates would have resulted in a majority of eligible clinicians receiving a negative payment adjustment," Mr. Gilberg said in a Nov. 2 statement. "Congress must pass legislation to stop this downward spiral in the Medicare program and at a minimum avert CMS' 3.4% cut to the conversion factor." 

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