The United States Congress passed their year-end omnibus legislation late last month, which includes a Medicare physician payment cut of 2.5% in 2023. A nationwide advocacy campaign by the American Medical Association, California Medical Association (CMA) and more than 150 organizations representing over 1 million physicians helped stave off reductions as high as 8.5% according to the groups.

However, physicians who care for Medicare patients and CMA are very concerned about how the cut will impact patient access to care.

“Congress’ plan to cut Medicare demonstrates a lack of understanding of the access barriers already plaguing our health care system,” says CMA President Donaldo Hernandez, M.D. “Physicians are frustrated and demoralized because, at a moment when the entire health care system is stressed to its limits, both parties in Congress have decided to ‘thank’ physicians working on the frontlines with cuts that will have devastating impacts.”

Following two decades of flat payment rates with no inflationary updates, the 2.5% cut will cause irreparable harm to Medicare and our underserved communities, according to CMA.

“Coupled with inflation and rising practice costs, any payment cut puts untenable strain on family medicine and other physician practices,”  AAFP President Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD, MPH, FAAFP, said in a published statement. “This ultimately worsens beneficiaries’ timely access to care, stalls progress toward value-based care and hastens health care consolidation. Congress must take action to ensure Medicare physician payment policies support comprehensive and continuous primary care, keep pace with increasing practice costs and stop the annual threat of Medicare cuts.

When adjusted for inflation, Medicare physician payments have dropped by 22% from 2001 to 2021, according CMA.