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Senate Votes to Prevent 2% Medicare Payment Cut

On March 25, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed — by a vote of 90 to 2 — legislation to delay the 2% Medicare payment sequester cuts for the rest of the year, extending the three-month moratorium of the sequester that was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260). Endorsed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), the amended bill, H.R. 1868, would forestall cuts totaling $18 billion scheduled to resume April 1. The House of Representatives — which initially passed its version of this bill by a vote of 246 to 175 — is expected to pass the amended legislation once it returns from the current Congressional recess. In light of this action, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will temporarily hold Medicare claims pending congressional action. “This will minimize the volume of claims the MACs [Medicare administrative contractors] must reprocess if Congress extends the suspension; the MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary,” the agency stated.

Prior to this action, the AANS and the CNS supported the Medicare Sequester COVID Moratorium Act (H.R. 315) and the Medicare Sequester Relief Act (S. 748). These bills — introduced by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) in the House, and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Senate — would have prevented this Medicare payment reduction through the remainder of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Click here for neurosurgery’s letter; here, here and here for health care provider coalition letters; and here, here and here for the Alliance of Specialty Medicine letters.

Absent Congressional action, additional Medicare payment sequester cuts will occur on Jan. 1, 2022. These reductions were triggered under a “pay-as-you-go” law when Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2). The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act (P.L. 111-139) requires across-the-board sequestration cuts to Medicare if certain legislation affecting mandatory spending or revenues increases net deficits. The AANS and the CNS will continue advocating for legislation to avoid these cuts.