Bipartisan bill seeks to avert imaging cuts

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Reps. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) introduced H.R. 3269 in the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 27. Co-sponsored by 31 House Members, the Diagnostic Imaging Services Protection Act would prohibit any multiple procedure payment reduction to the “professional component” of CT, MRI and ultrasound exams received by the same patient, on the same day, in the same setting in 2012.

A 50 percent cut was included in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 2012 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule. The proposed cut represents the eighth cut in six years to Medicare funding of imaging scans, according to the American College of Radiology (ACR).

ACR expressed its support for H.R. 3269.

“This multiple procedure reduction and other imaging cuts are unnecessary and ill-advised. A published study shows that any efficiencies in physician interpretation and diagnosis when the same patient is provided multiple services in the same day are variable and, at most, one-tenth of what policy makers contend,” said John A. Patti, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors. “Medicare funding for imaging has been cut seven times in six years, totaling more than $5 billion. Medicare spending on imaging is at 2004 levels and imaging growth is less than 2 percent annually. Further cuts would damage access to care for those who need it most.”

“Individuals that receive multiple imaging studies are often the sickest and most complex patients seen by physicians. They are typically affected by severe trauma, stroke or widespread cancer. Imposition of this multiple procedure payment reduction would disproportionately affect the most vulnerable patient population. We strongly urge our congressional colleagues to support the Diagnostic Imaging Services Protection Act of 2011,” said Reps. Olson and McCollum.

A 2009 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that increased use of medical imaging is directly tied to increased life expectancy for Americans. Those with less imaging access don’t live as long. A recent poll of registered voters showed that 70 percent of Americans oppose further Medicare cuts to medical imaging.

“More imaging cuts lead directly to less access to modern care when Americans need it. If our elected officials don’t protect access to imaging, no one—patients, providers or politicians—will be happy with the long-term effects. We thank Reps. Olson and McCollum for their continuing commitment to making these life-saving services available to Medicare beneficiaries,” said Patti.