Report: Imaging utilization has decreased since DRA

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The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC) has released an analysis of 2008 Medicare claims data, which shows that growth in advanced imaging volume is less than that of other physician services since the implementation of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA).

The study, conducted by Washington, D.C.-based research and consulting firm the Moran Company, analyzed volume and spending on physician imaging services from 1998-2008. Physician imaging services were defined as services billed to Part B Medicare contractors and paid under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS).

A previous Moran analysis showed that Medicare spending on advanced imaging was reduced by 19.2 percent from 2006 to 2007 and the volume of service grew by only 1.9 percent.

The new analysis showed that from 2007-2008:

  • Use of CT, MRI, PET and nuclear services grew by only 1.1 percent--even slower growth than the modest 1.9 percent increase from 2006 to 2007.
  • Screening mammography and the use of dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) to detect osteoporosis continue to decline in volume. Screening mammography volume fell from 0.15 percent growth in 2006 to 2007 to a decline of -0.20 percent in 2008, while DEXA volume in 2008 dropped 0.4 percent relative to 2007 (double the decline from 2006 to 2007).
  • Use of MRI decreased by 0.3 percent between 2007 and 2008 and the growth rate for CT volume was cut almost in half (4.2 percent, compared with 2.6 percent).

"Utilization of advanced imaging services continues to be slower in the post-DRA environment than in the prior period," said Don Moran, president of Moran. "Contrary to the assumption that advanced imaging spending is rapidly increasing, the 2008 data appear to confirm the deceleration of imaging cost growth first observed in the 2007 data. Policymakers may wish to consider this trend when considering changes to imaging coverage and reimbursement."