Eliminating Medicare's consultation codes has stymied physician efforts to improve care coordination and reduced treatment options for patients, according to an American Medical Association survey.
Shift on consultation codes hampers care coordination, AMA survey finds
The CMS' new policy, which went into effect on Jan. 1, no longer allows specialists to bill for consultations provided for patients referred to them by primary-care physicians.
About 5,500 physician representing 17 specialty societies participated in the AMA survey. Many reported they've had to take cost-cutting steps to offset revenue losses associated with the elimination of these codes.
Three out of every 10 survey participants have already reduced their services to Medicare patients or are contemplating cost-cutting steps that will impact care; 20% have already eliminated or reduced appointments for new Medicare patients; and nearly 40% will defer the purchase of new equipment and/or information technology, the survey stated. In addition, more than one-third (34%) are eliminating staff, including physicians in some cases.
In a separate letter to the CMS, the AMA and other specialty groups asked the agency to review and modify its current policy on consultation codes.
The CMS in its final rule said no specialty would see Medicare revenues decline by more than 3% as a result of this policy change. Yet, 72% of the survey participants said the elimination of billing for consultations has decreased their total revenues by more than 5%, and 30% have experienced losses of more than 15%, the letter stated.
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