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Medicare finalizes 2021 physician pay rule with E/M changes


“Long overdue”

But there also are champions for the approach CMS took in the E/M overhaul. The influential Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has argued strongly for keeping the budget-neutral approach to the E/M overhaul.

In an Oct. 2 comment to CMS about the draft 2021 physician fee schedule, MedPAC Chairman Michael E. Chernew, PhD, said this approach would “help rebalance the fee schedule from services that have become overvalued to services that have become undervalued.”

This budget-neutral approach also “will go further in reducing the large gap in compensation between primary care physicians (who had a median income of $243,000 in 2018) and specialists such as surgeons (whose median income was $426,000 in 2018),” Dr. Chernew wrote.

In a Tuesday tweet, Robert B. Doherty, senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy for the American College of Physicians, said CMS had “finalized long overdue payment increases for primary and comprehensive care including an add-in for more complex visits.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians joined ACP in a November 30 letter to congressional leaders, urging them to allow Medicare “to increase investment in primary care, benefiting millions of Medicare patients and the program itself, and reject last minute efforts to prevent these essential and long-overdue changes from going fully into effect on January 1, 2021.”

In the letter, AAFP and ACP and their cosigners argued for a need to address “underinvestment” in primary care by finalizing the E/M overhaul.

“Given that six in ten American adults have a chronic disease and four in ten have two or more chronic conditions, why would we, as a country, accept such an inadequate investment in the very care model that stands to provide maximum value to these patients?” they wrote. “Since we know that individuals with a longitudinal relationship with a primary care physician have better health outcomes and use fewer health care resources, why would we continue to direct money to higher-cost, marginal value services?”

A version of this article originally appeared on


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