FDAnews Device Daily Bulletin

Patient Groups Press Congress to Protect Access to Medical Imaging

Nov. 15, 2013

A group of patient advocacy organizations is urging Congress to pull back on proposed cuts in Medicare coverage for medical imaging, saying further reductions will seriously impede access to life-saving screening and radiation therapy services.

In a Nov. 14 letter to House and Senate majority and minority leaders, the groups chide Congress and the Administration for having cut Medicare imaging reimbursement 13 times since 2006. “Additional cuts would come at a time when multiple independent analyses have confirmed a downward trend in Medicare per-beneficiary spending and per-beneficiary utilization of medical imaging procedures,” they write.

The letter argues that in cutting reimbursements for medical imaging tests and creating separate cost centers for CT and MRI scans, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services does not adequately consider the costs of these services — for instance, and that the consolidation or increased wait times and driving distances for patients due to consolidation or closing of some imaging centers.

CMS has proposed cutting hospital outpatient payments for CT and MRI studies by 18 to 38 percent.

“As you consider policy options that improve the quality and efficiency of health care, we ask that you work with patients and physicians to implement thoughtful imaging policies that promote patient access to the right scan and the right therapy at the right time,” the letter says. It was signed by the Colon Cancer Alliance, the Society for Women’s Health Research, Yes! Beat Liver Tumors and 10 other patient groups.

According to the Medical Imaging & Technology Association, CMS has acknowledged the proposed scheme could lead to a 30 percent in CT scans and up to 19 percent fewer MR scans. MITA applauded the Thursday’s letter to lawmakers.

MITA believes the rule should not go forward without more data on the uses and costs of imaging equipment, spokesman Eric Hoffman said. “There just needs to be better confirmation on how hospitals count their costs for capital equipment. Right now, we’re at a crossroads on the cost centers for MR and CT, but the data needs to be better before they go down that road,” he said.

View the letter at http://www.fdanews.com/ext/files/11-15-13-PatientLetter.pdf. – Lena Freund

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