ACR members urge Congress against RBMs, utilization rate change

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Members of the American College of Radiology (ACR) urged the U.S. House of Representatives Rural Caucus against using radiology benefits managers (RBMs) in the Medicare system and against a proposed imaging equipment utilization rate change from 50 to 95 percent at a Capitol Hill briefing held June 24.

The ACR selected Cassandra Foens, MD, medical director of radiation oncology at Covenant Cancer Treatment Center in Waterloo, Iowa; James P. Borgstede, MD, vice chair of radiology at the University of Colorado; and Michael M. Graham, MD, PhD, vice chair of radiology and director or nuclear medicine at the University of Iowa, to testify on the benefits of medical imaging in saving money and improving patient treatment.

The doctors advised the members of Congress and congressional staff of the negative impact RBMs have on the delivery of quality patient care, such as delays in treatment and barriers to imaging care for patients. The panel said that further imaging cuts would have a "devastating effect on the ability of physicians in rural areas to continue to provide much needed imaging care to patients."

They discussed the Obama Administration's recent call for the increase in the utilization rate. In opposition to this proposal, the ACR representatives pointed to data recently collected by the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) which showed that imaging centers in rural areas operate equipment approximately 48 percent of the time their offices are open; non-rural centers operate equipment during approximately 56 percent of their office hours.

The physicians argued that a 90 to 95 percent utilization rate for CT and MRI scans would hike the reimbursement cut for these modalities by more than 30 percent, on top of an average 23 percent hit resulting from imaging provisions in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and even more reductions called for in the proposed Physician Fee Schedule Rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

"With cuts this deep, there will be minimal if any access to advanced imaging in rural America. Even suburban and urban providers may find it hard to continue to offer the same level of service - all leading to longer travel for care and longer wait times," according to the ACR.