The American Health Care Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and National Association for Homecare and Hospice wrote congressional leaders on Oct. 21 urging them to extend the congressionally enacted moratorium on the application of the Medicare sequester cuts into 2021 and through the duration of the public health emergency (PHE) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, these organizations provide health care to more than 62 million Medicare patients, and the persistently high COVID-19 rates across the country are stressing the health care system, they said.

The letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urges extension of the relief from the 2 percent sequester cut enacted in the CARES Act that afforded critical relief during the pandemic to all providers who participate in the Medicare program through the end of 2020.

“Physicians, nurses, hospitals, health systems, long term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and hospices have been hit hard by the pandemic, incurring significant expenses to treat the sick, but experiencing historic financial losses due to the decrease in inpatient and outpatient services,” the letter said.

Relief from the 2 percent sequester cut by way of the CARES Act afforded critical relief during the PHE to all providers who participate in the Medicare program through the end of 2020, it continued.

“Clearly Congress recognized the importance of this relief for the duration of the PHE. Given that the PHE is certain to continue into 2021, it is a safe assumption that America’s health care providers will continue to face the overwhelming financial challenges and pressures
associated with higher overhead costs due to personal protective equipment and other safeguards, lost revenue due to delayed elective procedures and/or forgone routine visits, and hazard pay to staff.”

The organizations said they are grateful that Congress has provided a much-needed reprieve from the Medicare sequestration since May. Without future sequestration relief, however, America’s health care safety net could be at risk of collapse, they said.