Spanberger Urges U.S. House & U.S. Senate Leadership to Support Virginia Healthcare Providers Amid Flu, RSV Surge

According to the CDC, Virginia Ranks Among Top 10 States with Highest Level of Hospital Visits for Flu, Flu-Like Illnesses

Virginia Physicians and Healthcare Providers Are Scheduled to Receive a More Than Eight Percent Cut to Their Medicare Reimbursements During the Worst of Flu Season

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today urged U.S. House and U.S. Senate leadership to prioritize support for physicians and other healthcare providers in the end-of-year government funding package amid surging cases of respiratory illnesses in Virginia and across the country.

Virginia is experiencing one of the worst surges of flu and flu-like illnesses in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia ranks among the top 10 states in the country for hospital and clinic visits for respiratory illnesses. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports that Virginia surpassed last year’s peak a full two months ahead of the typical start to flu season.

If new support is not included in the end-of-year government funding package, Virginia physicians and healthcare providers will receive a more than eight percent cut to their Medicare reimbursements due to expiring legislative provisions and looming budgetary cuts beginning on January 1. Patients and providers across the country would be left in an unstable financial situation, threatening access to care for patients as the surge of influenza worsens.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Spanberger urged leadership to prioritize inclusion of relief from cuts to Medicare reimbursements for Virginia hospitals, urgent care centers, and physician offices in the end-of-year package to fund the government. Additionally, the Congresswoman outlined the consequences for patients and healthcare providers as a result of expiring legislative provisions and looming budgetary cuts if Congress does not act.

“As you continue your work on an end-of-year government funding package, I urge you to prioritize relief from dramatic cuts to Medicare reimbursements for physicians and other healthcare providers on the front line of responding to a surge in respiratory illnesses in Virginia and across the country,” wrote Spanberger. “If Congress does not act, Virginia’s physicians and healthcare providers are scheduled to receive a more than eight percent reduction to their reimbursements during the worst of the flu season.”

Spanberger continued, “These substantial cuts to reimbursements, along with high rates of patients with respiratory illness and ongoing staff shortages, have already put tremendous financial pressure on Virginia’s healthcare providers, especially safety net providers that work in underserved communities. To address this issue, Congress should include in the end-of-year funding bill provisions that will mitigate these cuts, create stability and predictability around physicians’ reimbursements, and protect seniors’ access to care as hospitalization rates surge.”

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell,

As you continue your work on an end-of-year government funding package, I urge you to prioritize relief from dramatic cuts to Medicare reimbursements for physicians and other healthcare providers on the front line of responding to a surge in respiratory illnesses in Virginia and across the country. The unstable financial situation facing frontline providers could threaten patients’ access to care just as the surge in influenza worsens.

Hospitals, urgent care centers, and physician offices across Virginia are struggling with a dramatic increase in patients with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses. Virginia is one of 47 states and territories that are reporting high or very high rates of flu and influenza-like illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cumulative hospitalization rate for influenza and influenza-like illness this year was higher than during any previous season in more than ten years.

The current surge began well before the typical flu season in the winter, meaning we can expect the number of cases – and the resulting strain on our healthcare system – to continue to climb in the coming months. As we saw during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these very contagious respiratory illnesses can quickly overwhelm hospitals and staff and threaten patients’ access to care.

If Congress does not act, Virginia’s physicians and healthcare providers are scheduled to receive a more than eight percent reduction to their reimbursements during the worst of the flu season. This considerable reduction in reimbursement rates results from a combination of expiring legislative provisions and looming budgetary cuts beginning January 1st:

  • A 3% reduction effective January 1st, when the temporary increase to physician reimbursements Congress authorized at the end of 2021 via the Protecting Medicare and Americans Farmers from Sequester Act expires,
  • A 1.5% reduction effective January 1st, caused by a budget neutrality reduction in the 2023 Physician Fee Schedule, and
  • A 4% reduction early next year due to the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) requirement.

These scheduled cuts come in addition to the across-the-board 2% reduction to reimbursements caused by the return of sequestration over the summer.

These substantial cuts to reimbursements, along with high rates of patients with respiratory illness and ongoing staff shortages, have already put tremendous financial pressure on Virginia’s healthcare providers, especially safety net providers that work in underserved communities.

To address this issue, Congress should include in the end-of-year funding bill provisions that will mitigate these cuts, create stability and predictability around physicians’ reimbursements, and protect seniors’ access to care as hospitalization rates surge. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Spanberger has been vocal about the need to protect patients and support providers amid surging cases of respiratory illnesses. Last month, the Congresswoman urged President Joe Biden and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) leadership to initiate a national response to increasing numbers of RSV, flu, and other respiratory illnesses. In October, amidst a surge in respiratory illnesses ahead of the typical flu season, Spanberger pressed leaders at HHS and CDC for answers as to how their organizations were preparing to help protect Virginia children and seniors, support frontline healthcare providers, and prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses ahead of the severe flu season.

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