In a stagnant Congress, even the promise of movement on a legislative issue can be considered big news. So when a Senate bill (S. 2347) to block CMS reimbursement cuts for multiple, same-day imaging studies was introduced last week, the ACR took (cautious) note.
"We’re kind of held hostage to a larger agenda in the House and probably in the Senate as well," Cynthia Moran, ACR Assistant Executive Director for Government Relations, told Imagingbiz. "It’s unlikely that a bill such as this could make it through both houses without being incorporated into a larger vehicle."
According to Moran, however, there is also a larger timetable at work here. The expiry of a number of bigger pieces of legislation by January 1, 2013 will force the hands of lawmakers, whether this session is "an active lame duck or a lame lame duck," she says.
"A slew of bills are coming due, and this Congress is going to have to deal with them by hook or by crook."
The independent website GovTrack.us handicaps the chances of such a bill passing the Senate at 4%, which the site says is a high number given the current legislative environment. Its introducer, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) underscored the importance of the bill in a statement his staff provided to Imagingbiz:
“This bill will help preserve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to life-saving advanced diagnostic imaging services, such as MRIs, CTs, and ultrasound," Cardin says. "It will ensure that Medicare does not arbitrarily undervalue the role of the radiologist by canceling the Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR) cut to the professional component through the end of 2012, and preventing it from taking effect in future years, pending more comprehensive study of the matter. We believe the MPPR cut vastly overestimates the efficiencies that can be found in interpreting multiple diagnostic images.”
The counterpart to S. 2347 in the House is HR 3269, which was introduced by Representatives Pete Olson (R-TX) and Betty McCollum (D-MN); it currently has 234 cosponsors in that legislative branch.