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by Brendon Nafziger , DOTmed News Associate Editor
The American Medical Association has thrown its weight behind a bill that would block Medicare cuts to doctors who perform multiple advanced imaging procedures on the same patient during the same visit.

In a pair of letters sent last week to the bill's congressional sponsors, the U.S. medical society said the cuts follow others that radiologists and doctors at free-standing clinics face, which are driving imaging services to hospitals, where they're more expensive for Medicare beneficiaries.

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"Medicare beneficiaries also lose in this scenario because they are subject to higher copayments for these services when furnished in a hospital outpatient setting," Dr. James L. Madara, CEO and executive vice president of the AMA, wrote on Aug. 22 to Sen. Ben Chardin, a Democrat from Maryland, and Rep. Pete Olson, a Texas Republican.

Chardin sponsored the Senate version of the Diagnostic Imaging Services Access Protection Act, S. 2347, which was introduced in April, while Olson sponsored the House version, H. 3269, which was introduced in October.

Beginning this year, Medicare now deducts 25 percent from the professional component to a doctor who performs multiple CT, MRI or ultrasound scans to the same patient during the same visit. Next year, according to a proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pay schedule, the multiple procedure payment reduction, or MPPR, will apply to all doctors in the same practice.

CMS instituted the cuts because the agency says doctors enjoy efficiencies when performing multiple scans, a finding disputed by radiology groups.

Chardin and Olson's bill would block these cuts and require any future reductions to be undertaken only after a study showed the cuts were justified. The study would have to be done in consultation with relevant medical socities, according to the proposed law.

The American College of Radiology, which backs both bills and hosts Madara's letters on its website, said the Senate bill has 17 cosponsors and the House bill 268. The Senate bill's supporters include financial committee members John Kerry (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), ACR said.

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