Lawmakers attempt to delay Medicare payment cuts for medical imaging

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Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) last week introduced the Access to Medicare Imaging Act (H.R. 5704), a bill that has come together with bipartisan support and calls for a two-year delay for the payment cuts set to begin for Medicare medical imaging services included in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (DRA).

"These cuts, if enacted, will lead to reimbursement reductions of upwards of 30 to 50 percent for imaging services that patients and their physicians rely on to properly detect, diagnose, and treat life-threatening conditions. A delay in the implementation of these cuts is essential in order to give Congress a chance to fully understand how cuts of this magnitude could affect Medicare beneficiaries' access to imaging services," said Pitts, in a released statement. "In addition to calling for a two year moratorium on the implementation of the cuts, my legislation also calls for a comprehensive Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to analyze the impact of the DRA's payment methodology on patient access, with special attention to rural and medically underserved areas." 

Concerns over the impact of the DRA are widespread throughout healthcare. In an effort to stop or at least delay the DRA, a coalition of patient advocacy groups have banded together to form the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC). AMIC claims to represent over 75,000 physicians, providers and patients, as well as medical imaging manufacturers.

"Lack of access to appropriate imaging can contribute to late diagnosis which in turn can lead to more costly, invasive and intensive treatment,” said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, CEO and president of the National Patient Advocate Foundation (a member of AMIC). “No one wants to undergo invasive surgeries, long-term hospitalizations and loss of independence and functionality because they simply could not get to an imaging facility in a timely manner. But that is the real world effect of these cuts." 
           
Many feel that the cuts called for within the DRA were approved without any research or substantive background. For example, Section 5102 of the DRA was enacted without the usual process of hearings to allow members of the committees of jurisdiction the opportunity to assess the comments from patients, their doctors, researchers and other experts on health care delivery, AMIC said.