Supercommittee Stalemate Might Be Best for Radiology

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Cindy Moran, a former Republican Senate staffer who now lobbies for the American College of Radiology (ACR), doesn't mince words when it comes to the prospect of the Congressional supercommittee recommending using health care cuts to reduce the nation's budget deficit by at least $1.2 trillion in the next 10 years.

"It's going to be bloody warfare to get another $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion out of us, out of other physicians, out of the hospitals," she told Reuters.

The ACR and other health care industry stakeholders may benefit from a deadlocked supercommittee if Republicans refuse to raise taxes. In that case, automatic cuts would go into effect that spare Medicaid and make comparatively moderate reductions to Medicare.

To tweak the conscience of supercommittee members and either avoid the deepest cuts or produce a deadlock, they are bringing in patients to show the real human benefit that diagnostic imaging delivers. The ACR's new website America Speaks: Radiology Saves Lives makes the case with a survey or 1,000 registered voters.

Over on the Access to Medical Imaging coalition's Right Scan, Right Time website, testimonials from patients help make the case. (The coalition is recruiting more patient "ambassadors" to help tell the story. The link to share with patients who would like to get involved is rightscanrighttime.org/voices/become-an-ambassador.)

The emphasis on anecdotal evidence -- patient voices -- over the plentiful analytical evidence of the importance of diagnostic imaging is unsurprising given the current lobbying environment. With increased scrutiny of campaign contributions and lobbyist ties to supercommittee members hampering traditional industry lobbying, grassroots patient advocacy is the one clear path left to try to bend the ears of the committee's members.

The super committee is supposed to send its recommendations to Congress by November 23. Then the plan calls for Congress to vote on the recommendations by December 23.