In August 2020, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that announces upcoming changes for Medicare payments under the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), beginning January 1, 2021. The 2021 proposed rule was intended to improve payments and decrease complexity for evaluation and management services, increase coverage for opioid use disorder treatments, and broaden telehealth service coverage. However, in order to compensate for the budgetary impact of these increases, which HHS is required to do, the rule implements a significant decrease in the value of other health care services. Unfortunately, payments to chiropractic physicians and other providers will be significantly reduced.
Medicare uses a system of “relative value units” (RVUs) to arrive at its fee schedule. Under this arrangement, each CPT code is given a value, expressed as a number of “RVUs,” that is then multiplied by a “conversion factor” to calculate the fee. (See detailed explanation below.) In short, Medicare is cutting the relative value units (RVUs) for 9894x codes by 10%. Additionally, they are cutting the conversion factor by over 10%. The result is a Medicare allowable amount cut of 19.54% for chiropractic adjustments. Of course, spinal adjustment – CPT codes 9894x – is the only service for which Medicare pays chiropractic physicians, and these changes are wholly unacceptable.
ChiroCongress has grave concerns regarding the disparate and crippling impact the proposed rule would have on Medicare patients. We strongly oppose CMS’ significant payment reductions for chiropractic
services found in the 2021 proposed physician fee schedule.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE AND ARE DOING
The ChiroCongress filed official comments to CMS regarding the final rule earlier this week, and you can find a copy of our comment letter here. This is a critical step in our formal advocacy process to ensure that CMS is fully aware of the negative impact of these changes.
ChiroCongress has created a toolkit on My.ChiroCongress.org with resources to assist state associations in their advocacy efforts including timelines, instructions, a state template comment letter to CMS as well as member email communications templates, patient handouts, graphics, and a video. We are calling on all our state association members to encourage their memberships to contact their US Legislators as soon as possible to prevent the rule from becoming finalized. ChiroCongress can also provide state associations with a CQ Engage campaign to help your doctors with the information and means to appropriately contact Congresspersons asking them to act on their and patients’ behalf. Many experts believe that Congress will have to take action in order to stop these changes from occurring.
Chiropractic State Association across the nation are joining together in order to create a much larger impact and taking proactive steps to ensure that the chiropractic voice is heard widely by both CMS and by Congressional leaders.
BREAKDOWN OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES AND IMPACT
For a more detailed explanation of how the changes were calculated, the CMS proposed rule modifies two key factors that are important to chiropractic physician Medicare reimbursement: relative value unit (RVU) for the codes that are covered by Medicare and the conversion factor for all RVUs. Medicare uses the total RVU as a multiplier against the conversion factor to determine billable amounts for services. For example, CPT code 98940 (chiropractic manipulative treatment; spinal; 1-2 regions) has a national RVU of .8 in 2020, and the overall 2020 conversion factor is 36.09. The Medicare allowable amount is calculated by multiplying 36.09 x .8 = $28.87 as the national (not geographically adjusted) billable amount.
However, this proposed rule for 2021 will decrease the RVU for CPT code 98940 from .8 to .72 (a 10% decrease for all 9894x codes). To make matters worse, the rule will also lower the conversion factor from 36.09 to 32.2605 (a greater than 10% decrease). The overall effect of these two negative adjustments to the only covered codes for chiropractic physicians is a resulting 19.54% reduction in Medicare allowable amounts.
ChiroCongress along with all our member chiropractic state association strenuously opposed to these changes and has urged CMS to reverse decreases to the RVUs for CPT codes 9894x. In fact, ChiroCongress along with many chiropractic association across the nation have urged CMS to increase the RVUs for spinal manipulation to reflect the E/M elements included in that service, to carry out the stated purpose of the rule and to provide parity with the proposed increases for E/M services that are covered when rendered by other providers.