Major cuts to funding for medical imaging scans in the Medicare Fee Schedule Proposed Rule (particularly an extension of the multiple procedure payment reduction for interpretation of scans performed on the same patient, in the same session on the same day, to all providers in the same practice or hospital) are said to undermine care for injured seniors as well as those who are suffering from multiple trauma, heart attacks, widespread cancer, and stroke patients who often require multiple imaging scans.
CMS expanded not only the number of physicians affected by this policy, but the number of exams as well. “Interpretation of these scans often requires expertise of different physicians. These cuts discourage doctors from working as a team and pull the rug out from under the very physicians working to save these people’s lives,” said Paul Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors.
A multitude of studies show that medical imaging exams are directly linked to higher life expectancy, declines in mortality rates, and are generally safer and less costly than the invasive procedures they replace. Scans also reduce the number of expensive invasive surgeries, unnecessary hospital admissions and lengthy hospital stays.
Medicare funding for imaging scans has already been reduced $5 billion since 2007, and imaging use via Medicare is down since 2008. Imaging is also the slowest growing of all physician services among privately insured Americans according to the Health Care Cost Institute. Further cuts to imaging will do little, if anything to safely bend the Medicare cost curve.
“These cuts are an expansion of a bad policy that lawmakers have already lined up against. More than 250 members of the House are already co-sponsors of the Diagnostic Imaging Services Access Protection Act (H.R. 3269) which would block the original multiple procedure payment reduction on which these are based. We call on lawmakers to protect care for the most vulnerable of our nation’s seniors by updating the bill to address these cuts and passing H.R. 3269 with all haste,” said Ellenbogen. “A national poll of 1,000 registered voters has already shown that nearly 90 percent of Americans believe more imaging cuts will affect early detection of medical conditions and diseases. It’s time to stop undermining the future of healthcare and accept that imaging saves lives, resources and time. All of us needing care will be better for it.”
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