Bipartisan House group opposes Medicare imaging cuts

The American College of Radiology says reductions recommended by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission would endanger access to the diagnostic tests.

By Doug Trapp — Posted July 1, 2011

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Sixty-one House members signed a letter opposing reductions in Medicare diagnostic imaging fees recommended in June by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

The letter, signed by 26 Democrats and 35 Republicans, was sent June 22 to the chairs and highest-ranking Democrats of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. The lead authors are Reps. Jason Altmire (D, Pa.) and Pete Olson (R, Texas).

MedPAC recommended in its June report that Congress adopt several payment reductions based on efficiency, including cuts for physicians interpreting the results of multiple imaging procedures conducted on the same patient during the same session. Doctors would be paid a reduced rate for interpreting the second and subsequent scans. Similar Medicare rate cuts have been applied to the technical component for imaging, which affects health professionals administering the scans.

"This purely cost-cutting move may push many imaging providers, who have already endured massive cuts in recent years, over the edge regarding their ability to provide care in the communities they have served," said American College of Radiology CEO Harvey L. Neiman, MD.

He said the MedPAC recommendation is trying to address a problem that existed a few years ago but is less prevalent today -- the rapid growth of utilization of imaging services. The number of diagnostic tests performed is leveling off, he said.

"Radiologists can't simply tighten their belt or become more efficient. The time it takes to read exams is relatively constant regardless of whether the patients' exams are taken separately or all at once," Dr. Neiman said.

The letter did not address other MedPAC recommendations in the report. The letter is available online (link).

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