Medical Imaging Not Driving Escalating Medicare Costs

September 4, 2012
Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN

The use of non-invasive diagnostic imaging has evolved and fewer such tests are being performed, so it’s not to blame for rising Medicare costs, according to a new study.

It may be popular to blame non-invasive diagnostic imaging for rising Medicare costs, but a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Radiology shows that this is not true.

Medical imaging costs did peak in 2006, acknowledged David C. Levin, MD, lead author of the study. However, as its use evolved and refined, fewer such tests are being performed, lowering the expense.

According to the study findings, Medicare Part B spending for non-diagnostic imaging rose from $5.92 billion in 2000 to $11.91 billion in 2006, the peak of its use. Because providers became more aware of when to order which scans and the effects of the emitting radiation, use dropped, reducing the cost to $9.45 billion in 2010.

Similar drops were seen in other physician payments. In 2000, the cost was $1.06 billion and in 2006, the costs peaked at $2.38. By 2010, they had dropped to $1.96 billion.

“This study confirms that medical imaging costs are down significantly in recent years and runs counter to the misconceptions that imaging scans serve a primary role in rising medical costs,” said Levin. “This study should provide lawmakers and regulators with more current information on which to base medical imaging policies and allow them to correctly focus on other areas of medicine that may be seeing rising costs.”

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