Coalition targets imaging payments

An industry coalition is keeping the pressure on efforts to address steep cuts in payments for imaging services in physician offices, as required under the Deficit Reduction Act.

The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition says the cuts would result in massive reductions in payments for imaging services delivered in physicians' offices.

The coalition offered as proof a study by the Moran Company, which found that payment reductions planned under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 would push payments for 126 of 145 procedures below the estimated cost of performing those procedures in the office setting.

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The reductions are intended to put a lid on perceived runaway growth in office-based imaging services. However, study results suggested that total payments for the technical component of imaging services in the two settings are nearly identical.

However, the effect of the payment caps would leave payments for in-office procedures at 16 percent to 18 percent less than those done in hospital outpatient settings.

The organization said the study's findings contradict the belief that the physician fee schedule has provided excessive payments for medical imaging services, compared with payments for hospital outpatient services.

AMIC is pushing for relief from the payment caps specified under the Deficit Reduction Act, said Paul Fryer, its chairman.

 "We expect that there will be policy adjusted regarding payment, but this is pretty ham-handed," he said.

A couple bills have been proposed in Congress to address payment reductions aimed at healthcare providers, and AMIC supports the Access to Medical Imaging Act, introduced in both the House and Senate.

Absent Congressional action, AMIC is seeking a two-year moratorium on payment reductions for imaging services.

The cost of a two-year delay in imaging-related payment caps would be $1.2 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office; a one-year moratorium would carry a cost of $500 million.