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2021 Medicare Part B Payment Cuts to Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Services

The payment cuts are set to return in 2022. Please see ASHA’s update page to get the latest news, learn more about ASHA’s ongoing advocacy efforts, and find out what you can do to help stop the cuts.

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) were set to experience significant payment reductions for Medicare Part B (outpatient) services beginning in 2021. After extensive advocacy by ASHA and other stakeholders, Congress passed legislation significantly reducing the cuts for 2021. However, the cuts will return without additional action from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or Congress to find short- and long-term policy solutions. See ASHA’s update page for the most current information and advocacy activities.

ASHA’s Advocacy Highlights

Congressional Advocacy

ASHA engaged in ongoing advocacy with House and Senate members and staff directly and as part of a broad coalition of physician and nonphysician groups urging Congress to seek solutions—such as waiving the budget neutrality mandate or holding affected providers harmless—to preserve payment increases for primary care services without the negative impact to other provider groups, including audiology and speech-language pathology.  

  • The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) was signed into law and includes key provisions to mitigate the Medicare fee schedule cuts set to go into effect on January 1, 2021. (December 27, 2021)
  • Sustained advocacy resulted in the introduction of a new bill in the U.S. Senate. The bill, S. 5007, the Holding Providers Harmless From Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, sponsored by Senator John Boozman (R-AR), would address these cuts by providing relief payments in an amount that will ensure parity with current payment for impacted services for the next two years. (December 10, 2020)
  • Following implementation of the cuts in the release of the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule, issued joint statements with the American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Physical Therapy Association and a broad coalition of physician and nonphysician groups urging Congress to address the cuts by including H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, in any moving legislative vehicle before the end of the year. (December 1, 2020)
  • Signed-on to a coalition letter thanking Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), and other co-sponsors for their leadership in introducing H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless From Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020. (November 11, 2020)
  • Sustained advocacy resulted in the introduction of a new bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless From Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020, sponsored by Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN), would address these cuts by providing relief payments in an amount that will ensure parity with current payment for impacted services for the next two years. (October 30, 2020)
  • Congressional advocacy resulted in 229 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sending a letter [PDF] to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to address Medicare cuts to reimbursement for audiology, speech-language pathology, and other essential health care services. (October 19, 2020)
  • Coalition efforts led to a letter signed by 161 House members [PDF] to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking them to “engage with stakeholders in establishing fair and equitable payment solutions that address Medicare payment cuts at this time, while at the same time moving forward with policies to increase payments to primary care and other office-based specialties.” (September 24, 2020)
  • ASHA’s congressional advocacy helped generate and facilitate a letter signed by 93 members of Congress [PDF] to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urging that budget neutrality be waived to stop the cuts for two years while a longer-term solution can be developed. (August 11, 2020)
  • Following confirmation of the proposed cuts in the release of the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule, issued joint statements with the American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Physical Therapy Association and a broad coalition of physician and nonphysician groups urging Congress to waive the budget neutrality requirement and stop the cuts. (August 4, 2020)
  • Congressional advocacy prompted a letter signed by 46 members of Congress [PDF] to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging that future legislation include provisions to stop the cuts. (May 28, 2020)
  • Wrote letters from  ASHA's President to Senate [PDF] and House of Representatives [PDF] Leaders urging Congress to suspend the budget neutrality requirement for the MPFS related to the increase in E/M codes. (April 6, 2020)
  • Worked with a large group of other specialty societies and professional associations to develop a letter to CMS signed by 99 members of the House of Representatives [PDF]. The letter registers the members’ collective concern with CMS’s proposed payment cuts, requests that the agency provide more data regarding how the cuts were determined, and asks what might be done to reduce their impact. (February 5, 2020)
  • Signed on to coalition letters calling on Congress stop the payment cuts.

Regulatory Advocacy

ASHA engaged in ongoing advocacy with CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) directly and as part of a broad coalition of physician and nonphysician groups to find regulatory solutions to preserve payment increases for primary care services without the negative impact to other provider groups, including audiology and speech-language pathology.

  • Submitted comments to CMS in response to the 2021 MPFS proposed rule [PDF]. The comments included ASHA's concerns regarding the substantial negative impact of the cuts on audiologists, SLPs, and the Medicare beneficiaries they serve and offered potential strategies for CMS to mitigate or stop the cuts.
  • Following confirmation of the proposed cuts in the release of the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule, ASHA, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association met with CMS to express our continued concerns [PDF] regarding the negative impact of the cuts and offer potential regulatory solutions to mitigate or stop the cuts. (September 29, 2020)
  • Wrote a letter from ASHA’s President to CMS [PDF], on behalf of ASHA members, to reiterate our concern regarding the negative impact on audiologists and SLPs, recommend regulatory strategies to address the cuts, and request specific impact data for SLPs. (February 10, 2020)
  • Met with CMS as part of a group of 11 specialty societies and professional associations to discuss how CMS arrived at the projected reductions and share our concerns regarding the significant negative impact to many Medicare Part B provider groups who seldom or never report E/M services under the MPFS. (January 13, 2020)
  • Submitted comments to CMS in response to the 2020 MPFS proposed rule [PDF]. The comments included ASHA’s concern regarding the projected negative impact on audiologists and SLPs, and requested additional data from CMS to support the projections and explain how and why some specialties that do not bill E/M services under the Medicare benefit are most affected. (September 27, 2019)
  • Signed on to coalition letters calling on CMS to find regulatory strategies to mitigate or stop the payment cuts.
    • Coalition comment letter from 45 physician and nonphysician groups [PDF] in response to the 2021 MPFS proposed rule offering potential regulatory strategies to mitigate or stop the payment cuts. (October 5, 2020)
    • American Medical Association letter from 102 physician and nonphysician groups [PDF] calling on CMS to use its authority under the public health emergency to waive the budget neutrality requirement. (July 1, 2020)
    • Spearheaded a joint letter to CMS [PDF] from a group of 13 specialty societies and professional associations. The letter expresses our concerns regarding the proposed cuts and recommends potential regulatory strategies to mitigate the negative impact of the cuts. (February 10, 2020)

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