Bill Would Delay Medicare Reimbursement Cuts
Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) on Thursday introduced a bill (S 3795) that would delay $2.8 billion in Medicare cuts for medical imaging, CQ HealthBeat reports. President Bush in February signed a budget savings bill that includes the provision, which was "mandated in response to increases in imaging spending," CQ HealthBeat reports.
Federal spending on imaging services under the Medicare physician fee schedule has increased from $6.6 billion in 2000 to $13.7 billion in 2005, Herb Kuhn, director of the Center for Medicare Management at CMS, told a House committee in July. The average annual growth rate for imaging services in recent years is 15.7%, compared with 9.6% for all physician fee schedule services, Kuhn said.
The provision signed by Bush caps reimbursements for imaging services at the amount paid to hospital outpatient departments, which can be significantly less than the amount paid for the same services at doctors' offices. CQ HealthBeat reports that some lawmakers say the provision "might cut access to health care services and impair necessary medical treatments."
The Smith-Rockefeller bill would require the Government Accountability Office to study the issue and report back to Congress.
Rockefeller and Smith in a "Dear Colleague" letter to other senators wrote, "Beneficiaries and their physicians rely upon imaging technologies like PET scans, MRIs and mammographies to properly diagnose and treat life-threatening health conditions. However, because of changes made in the way Medicare reimburses imaging providers, seniors' access to these vital services may soon be in jeopardy."
The American College of Radiology in a statement supporting the bill said, "If allowed to go through, these drastic cuts may force many physicians to limit the number of Medicare patients they receive." A similar bill (HR 5704) was introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) in the House in June (Abruzzese, CQ HealthBeat, 8/4).