Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) introduced the Access to Medicare Imaging Act of 2007, bipartisan legislation calling for a two-year freeze of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA)-imaging cuts that went into effect the first of this year. A version of the bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in March.
"We are very concerned that patients who depend upon imaging services outside of the hospital setting, especially those patients in rural and underserved areas, will be particularly hard hit," said Senator Rockefeller. "Given the haste in which the DRA ‘05 legislation was crafted, it is imperative that we institute a two-year delay to allow enough time for a thorough analysis by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). We should have a better understanding of the complexities and impacts brought about by these cuts before moving forward with a potentially damaging policy," said Senator Smith.
Steven A. Artz, MD, professor of medicine, WVU College of Medicine and chair of the WV Chapter of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) has seen the negative effect of DRA cuts. "Medicare cuts to diagnostic imaging services have caused payments to go far below the costs to provide these procedures." In fact, explained Artz, "a local community women's health clinic in Charleston has stopped performing osteoporosis screening and treatment services altogether because they can no longer afford to do the procedures. Our university practice in Charleston is concerned about whether we can handle the influx of elderly patients for these services and if patients will travel across town to our facility."
A February 2007 Moran Company report, Assessing the Deficit Reduction Act Limits on Imaging Reimbursement: Cross-Site Comparisons of Cost and Reimbursement Pre and Post DRA, found that the cuts in Medicare imaging payments under the DRA will mean that total Medicare reimbursement for imaging services in physician offices and imaging centers will fall an estimated 18 to 19 percent below total reimbursement for similar services in hospital outpatient departments.
To access a copy of the Moran report visit: www.imagingaccess.org.