Imaging Cuts Removed From Free Trade Agreement Act

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Provisions for imaging cuts stipulated in the pending United States-South Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act were removed late yesterday by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. The provisions would have increased the required equipment utilization rate for advanced diagnostic imaging equipment services, or the rate at which Medicare assumes equipment is in use at the average facility, from 75% to 90%

Cuts to the technical component of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule were expected to capture approximately $400 million to finance a portion of the costs associated with the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The removal of the provisions from the Act follows an aggressive advocacy campaign by the American College of Radiology (ACR), along with a broad coalition of physician specialty, patient advocacy, and manufacturing groups.

But despite this latest successful attempt to block imaging reimbursement cuts, the “war” is not yet over. The 112th Congress will likely present future obstacles to imaging providers. Legislation to stabilize the nation’s challenging fiscal situation and deficit crisis, as well as attempts to repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, are two future political battles that could yield reductions to physician reimbursement.

Read the ACR press release.—Julie Ritzer Ross