The growing usage and cost of advanced diagnostic imaging exams is causing some insurers to create policies that make it more difficult to get coverage, the Baltimore Sun reports. Overall, the costs of diagnostic imaging has risen to over $100 billion annually in the United States. According to a report issued by the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, imaging is “one of the most visible and costly technological advances over the last 25 years. Similarly, Medicare’s Office of the Actuary also issued a report tallying its payments to doctors for imaging which it described as having “by far the highest growth rate” for all billing areas from 2000 to 2005.
One culprit is the mounting number of PET scans being seen each year, which have actually risen 400 percent over the past five years, according to numbers from IMV Limited, the Baltimore Sun reports. Currently close to a million PET studies are performed annually at nearly $2,500 each.
Yet, for all of these costs, the benefits of these high-end imaging techniques is considerable and can help eleviate costs in treatment. Doctors have more complete information regarding the nature of disease, thus can treat earlier and potentially avoid costly surgical procedures in some cases as well. One study published by the American Heart Association, looking at the benefits of CT imaging with stroke patients, found that use of the scans generally lowered costs of care and produced better outcomes.