Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C.: In testimony before the United States Senate Finance Committee Thursday, American College of Surgeons (ACS) Executive Director and CEO Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS, called on Congress to create stability in the Medicare physician payment system to improve patient access to high-quality care.

Dr. Turner said Congress also must address cuts already expected in 2025 and do more to make alternative payment models available that incentivize access to timely, high-quality care for all surgical patients.

During the Finance Committee hearing, which addressed bolstering chronic care through Medicare physician payment, Dr. Turner described the many challenges of the current Medicare physician payment system, including a lack of an inflationary update and continued reductions to fee-for-service Medicare payments. These challenges have ramifications for all surgeons and patients.

Most surgeons in the current fee-for-service system are evaluated on measures that do not reflect the care they deliver to patients or the conditions they treat, Dr. Turner said, and the current model of individual, disconnected measures is insufficient to achieve coordinated, patient-centered, high-value care. The current payment model is designed in such a way that different specialties are pitted against one another, which is counterproductive since all specialties are doing their best to provide quality care to their patients with ever-scarcer resources. Dr. Turner stressed that the system should incentivize high-quality, coordinated care centered around the patient. Without Congressional action, continued cuts to Medicare will pose challenges to physicians’ ability to provide adequate services and high-quality care to all patients, including those with chronic conditions.

“We believe that medicine should be advancing toward a system that rewards high-quality and value-based care,” Dr. Turner testified Thursday. “This transformation is underway and would benefit from efficient investments in the partnership between CMS and subject matter experts committed to improving the way quality is measured and incentivized, and by improving the calculus of the physician fee schedule.”

To maintain access and improve quality for patients, and to create stability in the Medicare physician payment system, Dr. Turner also asked Senators to implement positive annual updates reflecting the inflation in practice costs as well as address cuts expected in 2025. As a starting point to create a more stable foundation for value-based care initiatives, ACS supports implementing an update mechanism in the physician fee schedule and increasing the budget neutrality trigger threshold to account for inflation, among several other measures.

“Medicare cannot transform into a system which functions to reward value without immediate and lasting stability in the physician payment system,” Dr. Turner said. “Surgeons are devoted to being part of the solution, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with Congress to improve quality and access to care for the surgical patient.”

Read more about ACS efforts to improve the Medicare payment system, and watch the Full Committee Hearing with Dr. Turner’s testimony.

Read Dr. Turner’s complete testimony.

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About the American College of Surgeons  

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The ACS is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The ACS has approximately 90,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. “FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the ACS.  

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