Senator Collins Urges Senate Leaders to Preserve Physician Payments

Proposed regulatory cuts to specialty physicians could jeopardize patient access to medical services

Washington, D.C.—In an effort to avert destabilizing cuts to medical providers that could harm patients’ access to health care, U.S. Senator Susan Collins sent a letter to Senate leaders, urging them to advance legislation that would prevent these sharp reductions in payment.


In her letter, Senator Collins expressed opposition to ill-timed payment cuts proposed for certain health care providers in the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) proposed rule, which will affect a large number of specialty physicians, surgeons, physical therapists, and other providers in Maine.  Medical professionals are already facing financial challenges due to the pandemic, and these payment reductions could force them to close or limit their services. 


“The reimbursement cuts primarily fall on the backs of providers across non-primary care specialties – from radiology to physical therapy to orthopaedic surgery. Payment changes vary widely but several specialties are facing more than 10 percent reductions in payment,” Senator Collins wrote.  “If these changes go into effect, they could have a devastating effect on providers, health care practices, and, most important, patient access to care. They will burden a health care system already struggling due to the pandemic, and payment cuts of this magnitude have the potential to cause lasting damage to the health care system if practices must close or limit their services.”


“Moreover, physicians and other health care professionals have confronted this unprecedented public health emergency and continue to serve on the frontlines of this terrible pandemic,” Senator Collins continued.  “I strongly request that Congress prevent these cuts by waiving the budget neutrality requirements or by holding health care providers harmless from the cuts associated with the finalized evaluation and management (E/M) code policies slated for implementation on January 1, 2021.”


“If these cuts go into effect, decreased access to mental health care for Mainers will be the unfortunate outcome. Our healthcare system is already under tremendous financial strain as a direct result of the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus. During this time of crisis, any cuts to psychologists and mental health services would significantly impair our ability to provide necessary treatments. These cuts will be felt most severely by the most vulnerable among us and have long lasting negative consequences to our state and our nation's health,” said Thomas Cooper, President of the Maine Psychological Association.


“Musculoskeletal health care professionals and the entire surgical community are still recovering from the abrupt halt of procedures during the pandemic. We applaud Senator Collins for encouraging Congress to prevent these devastating cuts and to protect access to care for Medicare beneficiaries in Maine and across the country,” said Joseph A. Bosco III, MD, President of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.


“Neurosurgeons from Bangor to Portland and across the country appreciate Senator Collins’ efforts to prevent steep and harmful Medicare cuts from going into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Neurosurgeons take care of critically ill patients who suffer from painful and life-threatening neurologic conditions such as traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, debilitating, degenerative spine disorders, and stroke. Without timely neurosurgical care, patients can face permanent neurologic damage or death. These cuts will further strain a health care system already stressed by the pandemic and must be stopped to preserve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to care,” said John A. Wilson, MD, President of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.


“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of radiology practices have taken out small business loans or sought other federal relief to keep their doors open. These additional, drastic Medicare cuts may drive many practices out of business and restrict access to care, especially in rural and underserved areas, including urban safety net hospitals. If these cuts are implemented, congressional and provider efforts to preserve access will be severely undermined, and those who suffer the most will be patients,” said Howard B. Fleishon, MD, MMM, FACR, Chair of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Board of Chancellors.


“The proposed Medicare cuts to physical therapists and other providers will harm the ability of practices to keep their doors open during the middle of a global pandemic, and will harm patient access to care, especially in rural and underserved areas.  We greatly appreciate Senator Collins for raising this critical issue with senate leadership and the need for Congress to act quickly before the cuts are implemented on January 1, 2021,” said Justin Elliott, Vice President of Government Affairs for the American Physical Therapy Association.


Senator Collins has long been a champion of improving access to health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas.  As part of Congress’ response to the pandemic, Senator Collins has supported legislation providing approximately $3 trillion to respond to the public health and economic crisis, and she has secured more than $452 million for Maine’s health care providers. 


Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the Finance Committee; and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee.