Cuts to diagnostic imaging services are not included in the initial measures called for in the debt limit agreement approved yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in a move to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the near-term possibility of a default by the U.S. on its fiscal obligations.
Under the agreement reached by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and the Obama Administration, the President is authorized to increase the debt limit up to $2.4 trillion by 2013 in a series of stages. The first stage of the bipartisan deal would cut nearly $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years in exchange for raising the debt ceiling by an additional $900 billion. These spending decreases will be achieved primarily from reductions to federal government agency budgets and are consistent with Republican demands that spending reductions at least match any increase in the debt ceiling.
The second stage of the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling agreement relies on the creation of a 12-member, bipartisan, bicameral “super committee.” This collection of House and Senate members will be tasked with identifying the additional $1.4 to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for a separate debt ceiling increase of a similar value. The 12-member “super committee” must produce a report by November 23, and the cuts proposed in this package are guaranteed to receive an up-or-down vote in Congress by December 23, 2012.
The bipartisan agreement also includes specific spending safeguards to be implemented should the “super committee” fail to produce a report or Congress is unable to pass the proposed legislation. One option that Congress can pursue is the passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Rather than pursuing the balanced budget option, if the super-committee deadlocks or Congress fails to enact the specific recommendations, an automatic $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cut can be enacted.
Although successful in averting any cuts associated with the initial $900 billion debt ceiling increase, the American College of Radiology (ACR ) anticipates that the 12-member “super committee” undoubtedly will consider changes in Medicare physician reimbursement rates to cut costs, according to a statement issued by the society yesterday. The ACR believes that cuts to imaging will likely be part of a larger package of physician reimbursement reductions, and will continue to educate lawmakers as to why further cuts to imaging are unnecessary and will adversely impact patient care.