Grassroots organizing punctuates medical imaging lobbying efforts in Washington

June 19, 2009

Direct communications between radiologists and their congressional representatives and letter-writing campaigns have become key ingredients for medical imaging lobbying efforts directed at the White House and Capitol.

Direct communications between radiologists and their congressional representatives and letter-writing campaigns have become key ingredients for medical imaging lobbying efforts directed at the White House and Capitol.

The American College of Radiology urged members June 18 to call their senators immediately to express opposition to proposals before the powerful Senate Finance Committee that would change the Medicare practice expense imaging equipment utilization rate for MR and CT from 50% to 95%.

The ACR warned that the change would cut the Medicare reimbursement for the two modalities 5% to 40% in addition to reductions implemented in 2007 from the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

The ACR stressed that the proposed change to the utilization assumption is not backed by valid data demonstrating how many hours per week equipment is actually operated. It argued that freestanding imaging centers could be forced to close and the ability of radiologists to provide imaging services on an outpatient basis could be compromised.

On June 11, a letter signed by 57 members of Congress was delivered to President Barack Obama asking the president to reject arbitrary cuts to imaging services and withdraw his support for increasing the CT and MRI utilization rates assumption.

The letter was circulated on Capitol Hill as a joint effort by the ACR, Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance, and Access to Medical Imaging Coalition.

The letter stresses the value that medical imaging brings to the healthcare process by helping to save and extend lives and reduce costs by averting the need for more invasive and expensive surgical procedures. It singles out x-ray, CT, radiation therapy, diagnostic ultrasound, MRI, and nuclear medicine, including PET, for protection and notes that every dollar spent on imaging services correlates with about $3 in total healthcare savings.

The congressional representatives also argue that attempts to restrict medical imaging coverage will lead to inferior patient care and increase healthcare costs. They single out federal initiatives, such as mandatory medical imaging facility accreditation and appropriateness criteria development, as positive steps toward higher quality imaging.

More than 400 radiologists carried the letter to their members of Congress in May during the ACR's annual meeting in Washington, DC.

The ACR is the primary political lobbying wing of organized radiology. MITA represents medical imaging device companies, and AMIC lobbies for a coalition of medical specialists who perform medical imaging and commercial interests who manufacture imaging equipment and diagnostic pharmaceutical agents.