AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) Chief Health Care Officer Janis Orlowski, MD, issued the following statement in response to changes in Medicare payments to physicians as outlined in the CY 2020 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) final rule, which was released today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and includes adjustments to the use of evaluation and management (E/M) codes in physician reimbursement beginning in CY 2021:
“The AAMC is pleased that CMS has finalized changes to how Medicare reimburses physicians for office or outpatient visits. These adjustments will allow providers to spend more time with patients and improve access to much-needed care for vulnerable patients and those with complex conditions, many of whom seek care from physicians affiliated with teaching hospitals and medical schools.
We applaud CMS for listening to our concerns over past proposals and retaining separate payment rates for outpatient or office visits based on the complexity of a patient’s condition, rather than implementing a blended payment rate in CY 2021. Separate payment rates will help to ensure that physicians are more adequately reimbursed for the resources needed to treat patients and supports physicians, including those affiliated with teaching hospitals and medical schools, who see a disproportionate share of more vulnerable patients.
We also commend CMS for finalizing the proposal to allow physicians to select a visit level and document the care they provide to patients based on either medical decision-making or time. This brings documentation policy in line with current methods of care delivery, including the use of electronic health records and team-based care. By eliminating unnecessary documentation requirements, faculty physicians will be able to spend more time with their patients, leading to improved patient care.
While we support these changes, we recognize they will require offsetting payment reductions to certain physicians, primarily specialists who do not frequently perform office visits, potentially impacting patient access to specialty care. Annual payment updates under the PFS would ease the impact of such cuts, however payments are frozen from 2020 through 2025. We urge Congress to pass legislation to replace these payment freezes with positive annual updates, since CMS cannot do so unilaterally.”
The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members are all 154 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their more than 173,000 full-time faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences.