'It would be devastating' Health care providers weigh in on proposed Medicare cuts

Posted at 4:22 PM, Sep 10, 2020

NORFOLK, Va. - When you have a medical issue, you see a doctor, but the roles of the men and women who keep the public healthy may be on the line.

"When we're trying to recover from a global pandemic, making cuts that are going to result in the closing of healthcare facilities and clinics, again, is not good healthcare policy," said Justin Elliott, the vice president of government affairs at the American Physical Therapy Association.

Justin Elliott has led the association's legislative, public policy and political efforts on Capitol Hill since 2015 and joined the association in 2002.

The group is just one of many representing healthcare providers that are facing potential cuts proposed by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

"These cuts are going to hit a wide range of providers, not just physical therapists, but occupational therapists, cardiologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons [and] as you're going to see, these cuts go across the healthcare spectrum," Elliott said.

The way the law stands, any changes that CMS makes must be budget neutral so cuts in one area increase spending in others.

In those terms, this proposal would be positive news for sectors like primary care physicians and telehealth services.

"Everyone supports these increases to primary care, but to make cuts to 35 different healthcare providers during a global pandemic to subsidize those increases, again doesn’t make a lot of sense," Elliott said.

In the age of COVID-19, telehealth has become a priority by the Trump Administration.

In a recent press conference, President Donald Trump said, "Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or video conference at no additional cost including with commonly used services like FaceTime and Skype, a historic breakthrough. This has not been done before either."

Elliott agrees that telehealth has been monumental these past few months to ensure patient access and safety to healthcare providers, but "if these deep cuts go into effec,t then it won't matter if we have telehealth, because there won't be any physical therapists that are able to keep their doors open."

On Thursday, the APTA hosted the #FightTheCut Virtual Rally to send a message to Congress.

Elliott said, "It's time to intervene. We've got to prevent these cuts from happening, we've got to ensure that patient access is maintained and we've got to make sure that the healthcare system is going to recover from this global pandemic."

CMS stands by its mission to "create a healthcare system that results in better accessibility, quality, affordability, empowerment and innovation."

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is accepting public comments on the proposed rule, which are due by Oct. 5.