Jul 3, 2009

Medical Imaging

Data shows that imaging equipment in rural regions of the country operates 48 percent of the time an office is open, while equipment in non-rural areas operates 56 percent of the time a center is open for business.

President Obama recently recommended CMS base its reimbursement formula on a 95 percent utilization rate for advanced imaging equipment. MedPAC has recommended 90 percent for equipment that costs more than $1 million.

The utilization assumption is a key component of the Medicare formula. Dramatically increasing the utilization assumption results in a severe cut for imaging reimbursements.

Spending on advanced imaging has already decreased significantly since 2005 and imaging use has essentially flattened due to low reimbursement rates. More imaging reimbursement cuts will severely disrupt access to diagnostic services, including long waits for appointments, and patients driving long distances to find an office that has equipment. Medicare reduces costs without appearing to reduce rates. Hmmm! This is just the beginning of rationing, without using the word 'rationing'.