DRA drove down imaging costs by $1.7 billion in 2007

September 26, 2008

The General Accountability Office released a report on Sept. 26 that found reforms mandated by the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act cut Medicare Part B spending on medical imaging by $1.7 billion in 2007.

The General Accountability Office released a report on Sept. 26 that found reforms mandated by the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act cut Medicare Part B spending on medical imaging by $1.7 billion in 2007.

The decline is a dramatic reversal from previous years. From 2000 to 2006, Medicare spending for imaging services doubled from about $7 billion to about $14 billion, an average annual increase of 13%.

Expenditures in 2007 also dropped 12.7% to $12.1 billion, as opposed to previous years where expenditures increased 11.4% annually, according to the report.

The GAO said despite the decline, the per beneficiary expenditures in 2007 for physician imaging services were 70.7% higher in 2007. In addition, 2007 expenditures per beneficiary for advanced imaging services like MRI and CT fell 14.8%, compared with 3.4% for other imaging services like x-ray.

The Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance said in a Sept. 26 press release it remains concerned about the consequences these payment reductions will have on patient access to noninvasive diagnostic and therapeutic treatments.

"As the DRA cuts continue to be implemented in 2008 and beyond, we remain deeply concerned that seniors will increasingly experience problems in receiving the procedures and treatments they need and deserve," MITA said.

The Access to Medicare Imaging Coalition said in a press release that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reduced payments for imaging services beyond the intention of Congress as well as the budget scoring conducted by the Congressional Budget Office.

"Evidence from towns and cities across America is revealing that patients are being turned away from imaging at the point of service, and physicians are seeing fewer Medicare beneficiary patients or not seeing any at all," AMIC said.

Both AMIC and MITA applaud the medical imaging provisions included in the recently enacted Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) law, however.

"Congress hit the nail on the head in MIPPA by focusing on appropriateness and accreditation criteria, which ensure that patients are getting the right scan at the right time," AMIC said.

MITA shares AMIC's sentiments.

"It is these approaches, rather than payment cuts for imaging scans, that will ensure patients get the right scan at the right time and that healthcare decisions remain between physicians and patients," MITA said.