Congress and healthcare in 2022: 5 things for physicians to watch

Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the Medical Group Management Association, spoke with Medical Economics about what he's expecting from Congress in the next 12 months.

Five takeaways:

1. The 7 percent inflation rate could affect how the president and Congress spend in the future. Congress approved a large amount for the American Rescue Plan at the end of last year, and delayed the Medicare pay cut to physicians. Going forward, Congress will have tough decisions about whether it will be able to continue delaying the cuts.

2. The public health emergency related to COVID-19 could end this year, along with many benefits. Telehealth funding is one of the benefits that would be removed if the public health emergency ended today. Many patients like telehealth, but there are some concerns that permanent coverage could lead to overutilization of Medicare services. Mr. Gilberg said Congress could extend telehealth benefits temporarily to study its effects outside of the pandemic.

3. The movement to value-based care will be slow in 2022, with most of the management association's members saying they are interested in it, but there aren't many programs where medical groups can take on risk for specialty care. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation may decide to launch more tests and piolets for value-based care, but Mr. Gilberg thinks there needs to be a bolder move to really entice physicians and hospitals to participate.

4. Lawmakers are preparing for the midterm elections, and Republicans could take control of Congress next year. As a result, Mr. Gilberg said Republicans may be reluctant to act on any new policies, while Democrats will be under more pressure to achieve consensus.

5. If Republicans take control of Congress next year, Mr. Gilberg sees the Biden administration having a tougher time getting things done, and progress toward healthcare-related policy goals would slow.

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