Those of us in the industry recognize that imaging is a fast-growing alternative to invasive procedures. New technology, an aging population, and declining costs of equipment are leading to more imaging procedures being performed each year.
Unfortunately, private and public payors have a tendency to react to growing imaging expenditures arbitrarily and without a thorough understanding of the drivers of growth, both positive and negative. The 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) was an example of the type of reaction that will continue to occur if we do not stand together to educate our representatives and health insurers on how imaging actually results in better care and savings.
In the case of the DRA, our inability to have our unified voice be heard, and our industry valued and understood, resulted in a last-minute Congressional decision to cut outpatient reimbursements by 35%, under a few key decision-makers’ inaccurate assumptions that our industry could sustain these cuts.
Yet many radiologists and imaging providers are still not aware of the serious challenges we face, failing to get involved either with the National Coalition for Quality Diagnostic Imaging Services (NCQDIS) or in contacting their Congressional delegation to let them know how devastating the cuts have been. This is a concern, as the DRA represented the beginning—not the end—of an ongoing public policy debate focused heavily on our industry; thus, now is the time to get and stay involved.
NCQDIS was formed to promote the interests of all outpatient imaging providers. Our membership includes radiologists and owners of outpatient imaging centers throughout the United States.
Already this year, NCQDIS was successful in persuading CMS to reverse or delay many onerous new regulation implementations. Proposed changes to the “transmittal manual” would have taken effect February 26, 2007, if not for our intervention, and would have seriously impacted the future of many independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs). Yet in my interactions with other imaging providers, many were not aware of the serious ramifications to their practices had the requirements gone into effect.
NCQDIS’ federal strategy for 2007 includes continued work with other industry groups, such as the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC), to repeal the 2005 DRA cuts. We made great progress in 2006 before Congress changed over in November and our efforts were put on hold. We are now working diligently with Democrat leadership to have our bill re-introduced. At a minimum, we hope that our work will forestall the very real threat of future cuts targeted at imaging. In addition, we will continue to promote uniform quality and safety standards for all imaging providers to ensure patient care and quality, regardless of the provider.
At the state level, NCQDIS has an active state legislative monitoring project that many of our members have found to be of value to them.
Now is not the time to be passive about these critical issues; many outpatient imaging providers will not survive 2007. None of us should take the position that others will represent our voices, or worse – that speaking out won’t make a difference. Your participation in these efforts is urgently needed. Do not wait to get involved until it is too late for your company or our industry, or worse, too late for our referring physicians and our patients who have come to rely upon our high quality, safe and convenient services.
NCQDIS welcomes new members and any contribution you can make. Now more than ever, imaging providers need NCQDIS to represent their interests at both the state and federal level. Together, our voices can be heard.