Congressmen Seek Block of MedPAC Imaging Cuts

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A bipartisan group of 61 members of Congress, led by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) of the House Small Business Committee, have sent a letter to congressional colleagues voicing objections to imaging cuts recommended by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) in its June 2011 report.

MedPAC is advocating a multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) to the “professional component” of successive diagnostic imaging services administered to the same patient, on the same day, in the same setting. While cuts have typically been applied to the “technical component," or overhead costs of providing exams, this unprecedented step would slash the reimbursement for physician interpretation and diagnosis.

imageThe Congressmen warned colleagues the latter “would set a dangerous precedent for Medicare reimbursement policy”, noting that “these payment cuts are making it extremely difficult for radiologists to keep their practices and free-standing imaging centers open for business and available to patients.” Without access to these facilities, they assert, patient access to valuable community-based diagnostic imaging services could be compromised, with the vast majority of imaging services possibly delivered in the hospital setting at a potentially higher cost to Medicare.

“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,” purports Harvey L. Neiman, MD, FACR, CEO, American College of Radiology (ACR). “Cutting professional reimbursement makes no medical sense. Payment to doctors for reading scans is only a small part of what Medicare pays for these exams. 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.”

Rep. Olson did not receive any reported campaign contributions from the ACR in 2009 or 2010, according to www.opensecrets.org. However, two radiology practices in his district did contribute small amounts to his re-election campaign. Rep. Altmire has received a reported $12,750 from the ACR in 2009 and 2010.

Read the letter in its entirety.—Julie Ritzer Ross