In a unanimous vote of 26-0, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee moved forward with the Better Mental Health Care, Lower Drug Cost, and Extenders Act. The proposed legislation aims to partially shield healthcare providers from a projected 3.4% Medicare pay cut scheduled for 2024. This bill proposes adding back the 1.25% funding patch that was removed when Congress passed the Consolidated and Appropriations Act, 2023 (CAA, 2023). This would assist in offsetting part of the CY 2024 conversion factor (CF) reduction that was recently finalized.

The committee chairman emphasized the proposed bill’s immediate impact would yield an increase in the CF originally finalized through the Final Rule from CMS.  If enacted, the changes proposed in this bill would reduce the CF by only 2.18% instead of the initially planned 3.37%.

To be clear, while this proposed legislation has not been finalized or passed into law yet, this would be an important first step in helping to mitigate a portion of the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule cuts.

Plans were also announced for a more comprehensive examination of Medicare physician payment in the upcoming year.

Additionally, the legislation introduces changes to Alternative Payment Models (APMs), including a 1.75% APM incentive payment for qualifying participants reporting through the Advanced APM track of the Quality Payment Program for the 2024 performance year. This adjustment represents a reduction from the current 3.5% incentive payment, sparking discussions on the need for continued support for advanced alternative payment programs in the next Congress.

Members of the committee urged colleagues to consider a long-term approach, advocating for larger reforms to the physician fee schedule to ensure stability for physicians and the Medicare program in the future.

ADVOCATE will keep close watch on the progression of this proposed legislation and provide further updates as they become available.

Kayley Jaquet and Greg Wertz

Advocate Regulatory Affairs