CMS physician pay cut: Where it stands and where it's headed 

Physicians were holding out hope that Congress would choose to halt the 3.37% Medicare pay cut for 2024, but legislators declined to halt CMS' cut in the bill passed Jan. 18 to avert a government shutdown. 

Congress could have halted the pay cut through an omnibus appropriations bill but voted on a continuing resolution. While the pay cut has been implemented, some physicians are still pushing for lawmakers to remove the reduction in future actions.

"Failure to reverse these cuts will create access issues for patients and small, independent physician practices, especially those in rural and underserved areas," Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said in a Jan. 18 news release. "We recognize that Congress' work is far from done and urge lawmakers to reverse these cuts at the soonest opportunity."

In its 2024 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule released Nov. 2, CMS reduced overall physician pay by 1.25% and updated the Medicare conversion factor to $32.74, a 3.4% decrease from last year. 

When adjusting for inflation, Medicare pays 26% less to physicians than it did in 2001, the AMA said in a July report

Additionally, some physicians are facing pay cuts from the cost-performance category of the merit-based incentive payment system. These cuts could reduce Medicare payments by up to 9%.

"This is a slap in the face to physicians," Sri Sundaram, MD, a cardiologist at South Denver Cardiology, told Becker's in July. "There is already a physician shortage in the United States. This is easily gonna make this worse. Why would anyone want to go into medicine knowing they're gonna make decreased pay despite having to work long hours and place their own personal health in jeopardy?"

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