Despite the eagerness to revise the tax code, legislators shouldn't make any change at the expense of patient care, the AAFP said in a strongly worded public statement(1 page PDF) about the tax bill being considered in Congress.
If the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passes is enacted, physicians and other health care professionals could be hit with drastic Medicare payment cuts totaling $25 billion in 2018. That translates to a 4 percent across-the-board reduction in payment.
The AAFP pointed out that these cuts could reduce access to health care and threaten the stability of Medicare.
"These automatic, statutory cuts would significantly harm the Medicare program in the short term and potentially eliminate the program as we know it in the long term," the AAFP said.
The AAFP said the bill -- which would force $150 billion in overall spending cuts every year for the next 10 years unless Congress intervenes -- would be a major step backward at a time when CMS, physician practices and private insurers are moving to value-based payment models with incentive payments to physicians.
"The AAFP has been a supportive partner with lawmakers on the evolving approach to how Medicare compensates physicians and in the ongoing transition to a value-based payment model," the AAFP said. "To legislate now in a manner that slashes Medicare payments indiscriminately is not the appropriate approach and borders on irresponsible."
The Senate tax bill also would repeal the mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance, a linchpin of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
An estimated 13 million fewer people would have health coverage by 2027 if the mandate is repealed, according to the Congressional Budget Office.(www.cbo.gov)
In blunt language, the AAFP warned legislators that the current proposal would have a negative impact on patient care and physicians.
"There is a very narrow window of opportunity for lawmakers to reconsider their approach toward health care in this legislation," the AAFP concluded. "We implore Congress to fully consider the widespread, negative impact this legislation would have on the Medicare program, its more than 58 million beneficiaries, and the millions of Americans who would lose health insurance coverage."
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