Ever-growing areas of the Granite State are becoming health access deserts, especially in rural communities. The situation is likely to get significantly worse if Congress doesn’t take immediate steps to head off a crisis that will negatively affect thousands of New Hampshire patients with Medicare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a nearly 3.4 percent cut in the physician payment model under Medicare to take effect on January 1. This follows two decades of cuts to physician compensation that have resulted in a 26 percent payment reduction over the past two decades when adjusted for inflation, according to the AMA. Bear in mind that by some estimates, the cost of running a practice over that same span has increased by almost 40 percent due to inflation and rising regulatory compliance costs. Small wonder that so many physicians are considering closing their practices and retiring early.

The loss of physician care would be a cataclysm for Granite State Medicare beneficiaries. Congress must step in to prevent the CMS cuts from taking place next year. Furthermore, it must modernize how physicians are compensated under Medicare.

To begin, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and her colleagues should push for new legislation that stops the imminent cuts from taking effect. This action is a bare minimum. It would prevent the problem from getting worse, but it’s not enough. Congress must also approve H.R. 2474, known as the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act. This legislation aims to establish a lasting inflation-based adjustment for the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) conversion factor. This measure is crucial for bringing stability to the Medicare payment system, especially as physicians and their practices navigate a progressively demanding environment in their efforts to ensure Medicare beneficiaries receive timely and high-quality care.

Physicians serving in Congress from both parties see the problem clearly and agree the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act is the best available solution.

“Until policy changes are enacted to address the growing chasm between Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians and the real costs of running a practice, the challenges facing America’s physicians will only worsen,” write Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) in The Hill.

Sen. Shaheen has always advocated for expanded access to healthcare for all Americans. The best way to ensure that right now is fixing the way Medicare pays doctors. Patients with Medicare, especially in rural areas, are in danger of losing a lifeline to quality care. Let’s fix it once and for all.