The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week to extend the pause on mandatory 2% cuts to Medicare known as sequester — scheduled to go into effect April 1.
A bill drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) would extend the sequester moratorium until the end of the year and keep the cost of the American Rescue Plan from leading to additional sequester cuts. The Congressional Budget Office says sequester cuts would increase under recently passed pandemic relief due to costs, unless Congress waives them.
“This is simply the wrong time to have a 2% cut in Medicare payments if the healthcare infrastructure is to be maintained,” National Association for Home Care and Hospice President William Dombi told McKnight’s Home Care Daily. “That includes home health and hospice where a significant number of COVID-19 patients are under care. Many such providers had financial margins of less than 2% even before the pandemic hit with increased costs and reduced revenues.”
A spokesperson for Kindred at Home, the largest provider of in-home health and personal care services, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily that reinstating the 2% cut to Medicare would compound the financial stress Kindred and its competitors are still experiencing because of the pandemic. “Extending the moratorium would go a long way in helping stabilize what is already a tenuous situation in the healthcare industry,” the spokesperson said.
The healthcare industry has been aggressively lobbying Congress for an extension of the moratorium. Last week NAHC, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Health Care Association sent a joint letter to congressional leaders that said their members continue to face “higher overhead costs due to personal protective equipment and other safeguards, lost revenue due to delayed non-emergency procedures, bonus pay to staff and many other challenges.
Last May, Congress approved a moratorium on the sequester cuts through the end of 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Last December, it extended the moratorium until March 31 under provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
To date, nearly 30 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and almost 530,000 have died from the virus. The healthcare groups say patient access to care could be threatened if the cuts to Medicare go into effect.