Agreement also lowers barriers to prescribing opioid use disorder medication.

Lawmakers yesterday agreed on a final federal funding package with some important features for palliative care. First, the anticipated 4.5% cut in Medicare payment rates has been softened to 2% beginning January 1, 2023, and then a 3.5% cut in 2024. Many physician advocacy organizations are disappointed that a sizable cut is still in place and can be expected to encourage Medicare physician payment reform legislation in the new year.

In addition, this Omnibus package extends the telehealth payment rules, which had been due to end when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends. Under this funding bill, the current flexibilities will remain in place at least through the end of 2024, giving some stability to programs incorporating telehealth visits. This agreement also addresses many other pressing issues, including extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another five years; removing the requirement that a health care practitioner apply for a separate waiver to dispense certain narcotics such as buprenorphine; and encouraging training in treating patients with a substance use disorder.

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