Are pathology cuts justifiable as we expand telehealth?

August 19, 2020

The following is a column from Vachette CEO Mick Raich:

The recent proposed CMS fee schedule allows for an overall pay cut of 9% for pathology starting January 2021. The main reason for these cuts is the budget for these services must remain neutral and CMS wants to push more revenue toward evaluation and management services. So, pathology, radiology and a number of other specialties get cuts while primary care gets a raise.

It can be argued primary care has struggled during the COVID-19 dilemma, but not any more than other specialties. In fact, primary care in many areas has taken advantage of the new relaxed rules surrounding telehealth and may actually be recovering more quickly than other specialties, such as emergency medicine.

Therefore, can it be argued that these cuts may be premature? Could it be by 2021 that seeing your family doctor virtually will be the norm? Consider that the overhead costs for virtual medicine are considerably less than for actual face-to-face encounters. There is less staff involvement, no COVID tests for every office visit, etc.

With the above discourse in play, then perhaps this pay cut isn’t necessary going forward. If primary care becomes virtual care, wouldn’t this ease their burden and in fact help their bottom line? Could we be giving a pay raise to a specialty at a time when they’re overhead is being lowered by 20%?

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