The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its March 2021 Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy on March 15. In its report, MedPAC makes recommendations on hospital inpatient and outpatient services, as well as Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services after the COVID-19 public health emergency (see related story). Additionally, the report contains chapters on the public health emergency’s near- and long-term consequences on the Medicare program, as well as trends in enrollment and plan offerings for both Medicare Advantage plans and plans that provide prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D.
Notably, the report’s chapter on inpatient and outpatient hospital services contains a recommendation that Congress should update the 2021 Medicare base inpatient and outpatient payment rates for acute care hospitals by 2% for fiscal year 2022. For inpatient payments, the recommended 2% update is in addition to a 0.5% statutory increase, bringing the total to a 2.5% annual update for 2022 [see Washington Highlights, Jan. 15, 2021]. Additionally, in its chapter on physician services, the commission recommends that Congress should update the 2021 Medicare payment rates for physicians and other health care professionals’ services for 2022 by the amount determined under current law, which does not provide an update for physicians in 2022.
In other chapters, MedPAC considers the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 public health emergency on Medicare payment policy, which details the commission’s concerns regarding the solvency of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. Finally, the report contains an update on the status of Part D. Notably, the commission found that Medicare beneficiaries experienced comparatively less disruption to medicine access than to other types of health care services due to the public health emergency: 7% of beneficiaries had to forgo medications, whereas 36% had to forgo medical services.