The executive director of the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance (MITA) decried “humongous hits” to radiation oncology last week, a sentiment that echoes earlier statements from the president of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).
MITA’s Gail Rodriguez called the 15% radiation oncology payment reductions “wildly and unexpectedly large,” and a greed with ASTRO president Michael L. Steinberg, MD, that industry associations should work to reduce the decreases in a final rule.
“As near as we can tell in our analysis of the rule, and we have not analyzed it fully, radiation oncology is the only specialty that got a double digit decrease,” says Rodriguez, who’s group is a division of the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association. “They are not going to be able to keep up.”
In a worst-case scenario, Rodriguez believes radiation oncology centers would close if the rule were to remain as is. “And the ones that close are going to be in rural areas that are under-served,” she says. “You would have to do 20% more patients to make up a cut like this, and these facilities may not be able to get that sort of volume.”
Other facilities may be unable to invest in some of the better equipment if the cuts go through. Even beyond the realm of radiation oncology, Rodriguez says research and development, budgets, hiring, and overall innovation will not be helped.
Despite these challenges, Rodriguez points out that manufacturers within MITA tend to find ways to forge ahead even during financial crunches. “My members are doing all the right things, working together with stakeholders, medical physicists, and professional societies such as ASTRO,” she says. “They will not stop improving. I will never say that drops like this would have a negative effect on their important work. The worst effect is going to be on Medicare beneficiary access.”
CMS’ proposed rule increased payments to family physicians by approximately 7%, and for other practitioners providing primary care services between 3% and 5%.
“Certainly those folks [primary care physicians] have never been at the top of the earnings chain,” says Rodriguez. “However, I’m not sure that it needs to come at the expense of other practicing physicians.”