Medicare reforms could be good for imaging technology providers

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Some cardiologists are sweating possible changes to Medicare rules that could come under the new Congress. The changes have the potential to make it harder for cardiologists to get reimbursed for common but costly heart exams and treatments, Forbes/AP reports. However, what makes the doctors’ hearts palpitate in fear could spell joy for imaging equipment manufacturers as more screening is encouraged to prevent advanced illness in patients.

Lawmakers also are considering reforms that would see award bonuses being issued to doctors and hospitals that adhere to certain money-saving medical protocols.

One supporter of cost-cutting measures is Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the finance committee, as well as Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), so clearly the notion has a certain amount of support from both political parties. The urgency is partly due to the coming retirement of baby boomers and the demands that will place on the Medicare system, AP reports.

While nothing is solid yet on the legislation front, fear is in the air. John Lewin, chief executive of the ACC (American College of Cardiology) last week held a press conference warning lawmakers that the government should be careful about dabbling with guidelines that would attempt to “reinvent the wheel” and make it more difficult for patients to get cardiac treatments they need, AP reports.

Cardiology is a big target for payment reforms, however, because of the high costs of some routine procedures like implanting pace makers or clearing plaque from arteries. A more cost-friendly Medicare program would call for more screening, earlier before conditions worsen and expensive treatments are needed, AP reports. Hence, this could be good news for medical imaging technology providers.

Meanwhile, pay-for-performance programs also are gaining in prominence as another method for providing better care at a lower price.