Medicare spending on imaging continues to decline, with Medicare patients receiving fewer imaging procedures, according to an analysis of Medicare data released today by the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA).
“This analysis confirms the downward trend in both imaging spending and utilization in Medicare that has occurred in recent years,” MITA Executive Director David Fisher said in a statement. “The assumption that life-saving diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy are increasing health care costs is simply not true.
The analysis demonstrates that spending on imaging services for each Medicare beneficiary has decreased by 13.2% since 2006, when significant imaging-specific reimbursement cuts were first executed in accordance with the Deficit Reduction Act. Imaging utilization per beneficiary declined by 3% in 2010, the analysis shows, while spending on non-imaging Medicare services and imaging utilization rose by a respective 20% and 2% last year.
The analysis also shows that imaging now comprises a smaller portion of Medicare spending than at the turn of the century.
“It is unsettling to see these accelerating declines in Medicare beneficiaries’ use of medical imaging services during a time of tremendous advances in imaging and radiation therapy technologies, which have become increasingly integral to medical best practices and early disease detection,” Fisher stated. “This disconnect raises serious concerns about whether or not patients are receiving the care they need.”
Congress and the Obama Administration have cut imaging reimbursements seven times in six years, according to MITA. Payments for some services, including bone density screenings, arm and leg artery x-rays, and MRIs of the brain, have been reduced by more than 60%.
“Current evidence, including this analysis, debunks the myth that imaging is significantly overused and somehow responsible for escalating healthcare costs,” John A. Patti, MD, FACR, chairman of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Board of Chancellors, noted in the MITA-issued statement. “Unlike other areas of medicine, imaging utilization and spending are on the decline. According to these data, the goal of bending the cost curve has indeed been achieved for medical imaging. Any further reductions would represent socially irresponsible policy.”