House GOP, Dems seek to block Obama administration cuts to imaging reimbursement

The bill is a response to a July 19 CMS proposal to cut the reimbursement rate for multiple radiological assessments of diagnostic images by 50 percent. The proposed rule would take effect in 2012, and it follows other reimbursement rates to those who provide imaging services.

The rule is based on the premise that multiple images created during the same visit do not need the same amount of time to assess. Under the rule, the reimbursement rates for assessing all but the first image would be cut in half.

But supporters of the bill say the rule incorrectly assumes there are efficiencies related to assessing multiple images.

"This substantial cut is a disservice to radiologists and ignores the fact that radiologists spend an equal amount of time, effort and skill interpreting each diagnostic image, regardless of the number of images being examined, the section of the body being examined or the particular date of the imaging service," Olson and McCollum said in a joint statement. "Our legislation ensures that CMS does not arbitrarily undervalue the role of the radiologist within the healthcare delivery system."

In comments submitted to CMS, the American College of Radiology made the same point:

"It appears that CMS's decision … is rooted in the incorrect assumption that there are considerable efficiencies when radiologists interpret successive imaging studies during a single patient visit," the group wrote. "However, radiologists are morally and professionally obligated to expend an equal amount of time, effort and skill on interpreting images, regardless of whether or not a previous examination has been performed on the same day."

CMS in 2006 cut reimbursement rates for imaging by 50 percent for multiple scans, but only for the technical component of multiple, similar scans during the same visit, which essentially relates to the overhead costs of running these scans.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allowed this cut in the technical reimbursement rate for multiple scans, even if they were different kinds of scans (such as one image each done via CT, MRI and Ultrasound). The proposed CMS rule is the first time the reimbursement rate would be cut for radiologists who interpret multiple images, also called the "professional" component.

More in House

House passes bill blocking states from requiring GMO labels on food

Read more »