On March 15, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommended that Congress increase the 2024 Medicare physician payment rate above current law with an inflation-based payment update tied to the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). This recommendation highlights the need for the current Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MFS) to be updated to reflect present economic considerations that affect the cost of treating Medicare patients.
This significant step marks the first time the group has called for a physician payment update tied to the MEI. However, MedPAC will likely call for an inflation-based update based on only half of the MEI growth rate.
The ACR joined the American Medical Association and a coalition of other organizations to encourage Congress to take this opportunity to pass legislation that goes beyond MedPAC’s recommendation. The group submitted a letter urging legislators to provide physicians with much-needed fiscal stability by passing legislation that provides an annual inflation-based payment update based on the full MEI.
Action is needed to address the systemic problem of continued Medicare physician payment cuts, now coupled with record-setting inflation and rising practice costs. Congress can accomplish this by providing an annual inflation-based payment update for physicians based on the full MEI and further exploring changes and improvements to a payment policy that will sustainably ensure patients with rheumatic diseases continue to have access to quality care.