by Robert Garment
, Executive Editor | June 06, 2006
The Deficit Reduction Act
of 2005 threatens to
sharply reduce reimbursements
for imaging procedures
beginning in 2007
The Congressional Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) cuts for imaging reimbursement payment scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of 2007 portend a very grave threat to the health of all Americans.
This is a Lose-Lose-Lose proposition
The biggest losers are the American public and their access to adequate healthcare. This "unintended" side effect of the cuts should have been painfully obvious to Congress.
"Discovery is the key to Recovery." This is a no-brainer: preventing the ravages of disease requires first that the disease is discovered. Non-invasive imaging is one of the greatest advances in healthcare in the last 50 years.
Yet if people cannot afford imaging procedures because the co-pay is too high, then tens of thousands of treatable cases of disease a year will go untreated until the symptoms are debilitating and obvious. And the flip-side of this is that the cost to treat these patients with intensive procedures will actually cause healthcare costs to the government, through Medicare and Medicaid payments, to skyrocket.
The next big losers are the free-standing imaging centers. If the co-pay costs become prohibitive for a large segment of the public, many centers may close for financial reasons. And if this happens to enough free-standing imaging centers - which provide a large percentage of all imaging services - wait-times at hospitals for diagnosis could stretch into weeks, delaying early detection and treatment, and again increase the ultimate cost to the government.
The third big losers are the OEMs and the imaging after-market. Who will buy their expensive new equipment if it cannot be operated at a fair profit? And what will it mean to all the perfectly good used equipment if there are few buyers who can afford it?
With so much "pork" in the federal government budget, cutting the delivery of critical healthcare services is nothing but a mystery - the mystery is, who is "benefiting" from this? It's not the American Tax Payer. We wonder who slipped this provision into the DRA - it's a huge bill and often some self-serving or special interest-beholding politicians can add an item to a bill with few people noticing the fine print.
The bottom-line is, these cuts need to be cut. Limiting access to diagnostic imaging will cost lives and money. The American College of Radiology is making a strong effort at attempting to rally support for a rollback. We would encourage all DOTmed users - and we mean all DOTmed users -- to complain to their elected officials.
Please see this week's Letter from the Editor on how to do it.