Surgeon group forms to protest Medicare cuts

A coalition of 12 surgeon groups has formed a new organization that aims to work with Congress to stop cuts to Medicare payments that could have an adverse effect on patients.

The new organization, Surgical Care Coalition, is comprised of 12 industry associations that represent more than 150,000 surgeons.

The Medicare payment cuts are scheduled to take effect starting in January 2021 and include reduced payments for surgical care. According to the group, the cuts may mean surgeons will see fewer Medicare payments in the future.

“Surgeons play a key role in America’s health care system, which is already under strain from COVID-19,” David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, American College of Surgeons executive director, said in a statement. “The Surgical Care Coalition is against these cuts because they will ultimately hurt the patients we care for every day.”

In addition, the cuts are scheduled to come at a time when the nation is still grappling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While trials are underway around the for more than 100 potential vaccines for the virus, many frontline physicians are not expecting the healthcare space to return to normal until August 2021.

“These cuts presented a difficult future for surgical patients, even before COVID-19 hit,” Hoyt said. “If they go into effect while the country is dealing with the consequences of the pandemic, American patients will pay an even greater, devastating cost.”

Surgeons, along with many other healthcare professionals, are facing significant hardships from COVID-19, as many practices temporarily halted elective procedures during the height of the pandemic and Americans chose to put off care to reduce risk of infection or spread of the virus. Surgeons, faced with upcoming payment cuts, will likely have some tough choices ahead to keep practices operational, according to the Coalition.

According to a survey the group conducted that included more than 5,000 surgeons, 1 in 3 private practice surgeons are worried they might have to shut down. And about half of surgeons are facing difficult financial decisions and making tough choices, including cutting their own pay or continuing to pay employees as revenues decline.

The 12 founding member associations of the coalition, which includes the American College of Surgeons, have already worked together on policy solutions to Congress for the last 30 years.