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Friday, February 23, 2024
Feb. 23, 2024

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Local View: Congress must prevent Medicare cuts


As our national health care system continues to grapple with challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating costs and staffing shortages, Vancouver Clinic needs lawmakers to ensure the Medicare program provides the resources necessary to deliver care. Vancouver Clinic remains steadfast in our commitment to our community and facing these challenges head-on, but it will be difficult to serve our community if Congress does not prevent looming cuts in Medicare reimbursements. We implore our nation’s leaders to make a commitment to halt these cuts.

Starting in January 2024, Vancouver Clinic and health care providers throughout the country are facing Medicare cuts of more than 3 percent, in addition to multiple cuts made over the past several years. These cuts, however, are not occurring in isolation. The pandemic, coupled with rising costs, has already taken a toll on our organization and our patients.

Physicians have experienced a staggering 26 percent decline in inflation-adjusted Medicare reimbursement from 2001 to 2023. Beyond the decline year-over-year in support from Medicare, the health care industry also is grappling with unprecedented workforce shortages, the burnout stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, record levels of inflation and a rapidly expanding Medicare-eligible population. Locally, this has resulted in many practices closing and significant cuts in services by health care systems. This trajectory clearly is not sustainable.

Limiting care

These Medicare cuts will strain health care providers nationwide, potentially disrupting their ability to continue delivering care. As it works on end-of-year legislation, Congress must rescind the scheduled 3.36 percent decrease in the Medicare conversion factor. If these cuts are implemented, Vancouver Clinic would need to limit the number of traditional Medicare patients we are able to care for.

It is disheartening that our political leaders may not fully comprehend the significance of federal support for our medical practices and health systems. Persisting with the practice of reducing reimbursement amid escalating costs will undoubtedly result in restricted beneficiary access to care. Congress should take immediate action to halt these cuts and ensure Vancouver Clinic and clinicians across the country have the resources needed to offer the best possible care to our patients.

Mark Mantei is CEO of Vancouver Clinic and has almost 40 years of experience in physician group practice and hospital leadership.