Study reveals PET discounting

March 27, 1991

Charges for positron emission tomography examinations vary widely,and discounting is common, according to a report released lastmonth. Centers eager to boost the use of PET trim as much as $800off PET exams that can cost over $2000, the report found.

Charges for positron emission tomography examinations vary widely,and discounting is common, according to a report released lastmonth. Centers eager to boost the use of PET trim as much as $800off PET exams that can cost over $2000, the report found.

Averaging the costs and charges produced more moderate numbers,however. The average charge for a PET exam at 24 U.S. sites was$1742, slightly more than the average $1716 cost per scan, accordingto the study. If PET facilities can perform about six scans perday, costs could decline to about $1318 per scan.

The consulting firm of Coopers and Lybrand conducted the study,under contract to the Institute for Clinical PET.

Because many of the surveyed centers had begun operating withinthe past 14 months, patient charges tended to be extraordinarilylow in order to attract patients. As a result, the ratio betweentechnical and professional fees charged at the centers may beskewed, compared to those of conventional imaging techniques,said Dr. John C. Mazziotta, ICP president.

The intent of the study was to get a handle on this financiallyelusive modality, according to J. Michael McGehee, ICP executivedirector. The ICP hopes the Health Care Financing Administrationwill reference its report when considering PET for Medicare reimbursement,possibly in 1992. Whether the report will help or hurt is notcertain, he said.

"A series of numbers was discussed as to what the costof PET actually was," McGehee said. "There was a widediscrepancy from low to high and somewhere in the middle. Thereis now a clear, documented report that spells out in comprehensivedetail what the cost of PET actually is."

The report suffers from the same variables that affect clinicalPET, however. Low throughput was common as centers worked to evaluateand optimize procedures, Mazziotta said.

An additional problem in conducting the financial analyseswas that many centers that participated in the survey are affiliatedwith universities and perform both research and clinical studies,making it all but impossible to determine true costs, he said.