AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) Chief Health Care Officer Janis M. Orlowski, MD, issued the following statement on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) annual Physician Fee Schedule final rule:
"While the AAMC appreciates CMS’ commitment to restructuring and increasing payment for office-based evaluation and management (E/M) codes by implementing significant changes for 2021, we are dismayed to see that the final rule continues to include sizable cuts in payment for other services due to budget neutrality requirements. We are deeply concerned that these devastating cuts to physicians, physician practices, and other health care professionals are coming at a time when they are serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and caring for patients. Cuts to emergency room and intensive care unit physician payments during this pandemic is especially concerning. The AAMC will continue to work with other stakeholders and policymakers to find a responsible solution that maintains the E/M increases while also responsibly addressing these problematic cuts.
We recognize that in this rule, CMS is also taking a much needed first step by permanently expanding coverage of the use of some telehealth and other communications-based technology services. However, additional changes are needed to ensure patient access to these important services in the future. The expansion of telehealth will help ensure physicians are able to monitor non-critically ill COVID-19 patients, follow up on patients with chronic disease who can be cared for without risking a visit to the hospital or clinic, and provide care for many Medicare beneficiaries without imposing the burden of travel. Congress must now pick up the baton and build upon this progress by passing legislation that will enable telehealth services in all regions of the country and in patients’ homes after the pandemic ends.
Lastly, we appreciate CMS allowing teaching physicians to supervise residents via real-time, interactive audio/video technology in rural settings on a permanent basis. We recommend that CMS expand this policy to allow virtual supervision of residents in non-rural settings. Continuing these policies will reduce exposure to infectious diseases, increase the workforce capacity, increase access to care for patients, and provide an opportunity for important experiences and training while appropriately supervising the future physician workforce."