Senators write Obama to protest imaging cutbacks

August 4, 2011

A bipartisan group of senators whose states are home to imaging equipment manufacturers recently wrote President Obama, urging against any cutbacks in Medicare reimbursements for imaging.

A bipartisan group of senators whose states are home to imaging equipment manufacturers recently wrote President Obama, urging against any cutbacks in Medicare reimbursements for imaging.

The senators, led by Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, said in their letter that reductions already in effect are "stifling this home-grown medical innovation" and leaving seniors and people with disabilities without access to scans.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission recently made a series of recommendations to reduce Medicare reimbursements to providers for advanced imaging, including a prior authorization program for physicians who order substantially more of the service than their peers.

But the senators said that as a result of reimbursement cuts in place since 2006, physicians are holding on to their equipment longer, which means fewer patients have access to newer technologies that are better at detecting diseases in their early stages. The problem is worse in rural areas, where a single practice closure can mean patients are left hours away from diagnostic services, they said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a proposed rule for the 2012 physician fee schedule, proposed to cut payments for computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound services administered to the same patient, on the same day, in the same setting. The proposed rule also would expand the number of physician services that could be bundled into one payment.

For more on this subject, see UT Washington Correspondent Bob Gatty’s "Washington and You" column in the August issue of Urology Times.