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Medical Image Testing Rate Declines

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 14, 2011

Reductions in federal spending for imaging, some of which has been seen as unnecessary and often duplicative, has been a federal goal since certain payment policies were changed in the Deficit Reduction Act. Reports from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Congressional Budget Office also have called for reductions in unnecessary federal spending for images.

But AMIC is concerned that the decline in volume of advanced imaging tests "suggests that access issues are at hand," said its executive director, Tim Trysla. "While imaging has been proven to reduce mortality, additional cuts to Medicare reimbursements threaten to continue the current trajectory and further restrict patient access to life-saving diagnostic tools and screening services."

"The implications of these policies may include fewer services available for Medicare beneficiaries, longer wait times, and difficulty in diagnosing patients early, when treatment is most effective," APIC said in a statement.

The Moran Company report also found that mammography screening volumes also decreased by 3% in 2009, compared with a 2.8% compound annual growth rate in the past decade. X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), a measure of bone density, decreased by 2.2% while spending decreased by 16% from 2008-2009.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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