Coalition presses to delay Medicare cuts

November 10, 2006

The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC) will push hard for the postelection Congress to pass legislation to delay scheduled Medicare cuts aimed at medical imaging reimbursement, but prospects do not look good.

The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC) will push hard for the postelection Congress to pass legislation to delay scheduled Medicare cuts aimed at medical imaging reimbursement, but prospects do not look good.

The cuts, passed as part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 and only the Congress can stop them.

"We hope that, given the amount of support (to delay the DRA cuts), this will be revisited prior to the end of the 109th Congress," said AMIC executive director Tim Trysla. "I don't think anybody has a clear flight pattern about what needs to be done, given the outcome of the (midterm) election."

Trysla has been trekking to Capitol Hill this week, meeting with key representatives, including Sens. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), hoping to spur passage of the Access to Medicare Imaging Act (HR 5704, S 3795). The law would delay implementation of the cuts in imaging reimbursement for two years. This could buy the time needed for the Government Accountability Office to study the impact of the cuts on Medicare patients, particularly those in rural and medically underserved areas.

If the legislation does not pass by the end of this year, AMIC will continue pushing for its passage in the new session of Congress starting in January, according to Trysla. By then, the cuts will be in place and the legislation would have to be recast to rescind them. Changes wrought by the midterm elections, however, should have no effect on support for the measure.

More than 150 Congressmen on both sides of the aisle in the House and the Senate have cosponsored legislation that would delay the cuts. All the Congressmen in leadership roles regarding this proposed legislation will return to Capitol Hill in 2007, Trysla said.

The AMIC represents 39 patient, provider, physician, and manufacturer groups. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association is working with AMIC to convince Congress to delay the Medicare cuts.

"The shift in Congressional makeup in no way lessens our resolve to have these cuts delayed until the Congress can more fully examine their impact on patient care," said Andrew Whitman, vice president of NEMA's medical products division.