Rad Groups Slam President’s Budget

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On Tuesday, groups representing radiologists blasted President Obama’s proposed budget that calls for $820 million in reductions to advanced imaging over 10 years.

The cuts are based on an increase in the assumed rate of utilization. The budget also calls for imposing a Medicare prior-authorization program for advanced diagnostic imaging services.

The American College of Radiology, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance and the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition said the budget cuts will actually reduce access and lead to greater Medicare costs rather than less.

The proposed cuts could force suburban and rural imaging centers to close, driving seniors to more costly hospital-based settings for their imaging procedures, according to the ACR.

“These provisions place potential barriers to life-saving care before of our nation’s seniors. A 2009 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that increased use of imaging is directly related to increased life expectancy. Any form of limited access to advanced diagnostic imaging runs counter to our national goal of a healthier population. We therefore call on Congress to reject these budget proposals for the bad policy that they are,” said John A. Patti, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors, based on a press release.

The Medical Imaging and Technology Association pointed out that medical imaging services under Medicare have been reduced eight times since 2006 amounting to about $6 billion in cuts. Medical imaging declined 2.5% in 2010 and more than 13% since 2006, according to MedPAC.

A similar analysis by MITA showed that Medicare spending on imaging dropped 13.2% per enrollee since 2006, while imaging utilization declined by 3%. Overall Medicare spending, meanwhile, increased 20% and non-imaging utilization rose by 2% over the same period.

“Reducing seniors’ access to early disease detection by cutting imaging reimbursements and adding an unworkable prior authorization system will negatively impact health outcomes, lead to more healthcare spending and is contrary to the President’s goal of spurring advanced manufacturing in communities across our country,” said Gail Rodriguez, Executive Director of MITA in a press release. “These budget proposals are built on outdated data and would impede access to physician-prescribed care.

The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition largely echoed the same themes.

“These policies would also mean a direct hit on high-tech manufacturing, which is exactly contrary to the Administration’s stated goal of preserving and creating these types of jobs at home,” said Tim Trysla, executive director of AMIC in a press release. “The budget estimates confirm what our analysis showed—that a prior authorization program will in fact produce zero savings. RBMs will only mean increased burdens on physician practices and delays in patients receiving needed care.”