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  • 02.9.11

    Analysis Shows Quantity of Advanced Imaging Services Declines for First Time in 11 Years

    Analysis Shows Quantity of Advanced Imaging Services Declines for First Time in 11 Years

    Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC) Cautions Against Further Threats to Patient Access

    Washington, D.C. – The volume of advanced imaging services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries decreased in 2009 for the first time in 11 years, according to a new analysis by The Moran Company.  The study, released today by the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC), a coalition of physician, patient and imaging manufacturer groups, found that while the volume of advanced imaging services decreased by .1 percent, the amount of overall imaging services declined by 7.1 percent.

    “The analysis found that Medicare spending for advanced imaging services increased by less than half the spending growth for physician services overall,” said Don Moran, president of The Moran Company. “With a 1.2 percent increase in spending for advanced imaging compared with 2.6 percent for services overall, imaging was one of the slowest growing segments of the physician fee schedule in 2009.”

    Moran’s analysis of Medicare claims data from 1999 through 2009 examined both the spending and volume of advanced imaging services – specifically CT, MRI and Nuclear Medicine including PET – as well as overall imaging services, including mammography.  The new findings are comparable to a 2008 analysis of Medicare claims data that showed a 19.2 percent reduction in Medicare spending on advanced imaging from 2006 to 2007 and revealed a significantly reduced volume growth rate of only 1.9 percent, which was less than the overall rate of physician-payment growth.

    “The decline in volume of critical screening services suggests that access issues are at hand,” said Tim Trysla, executive director of AMIC.  “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 new analysis also found that the total volume of mammography screenings decreased by .3 percent in 2009, compared to a 2.8 percent compound annual growth rate in the past decade. Additionally, the total volume of dual-emission X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which measures bone mineral density, decreased by 2.2 percent, while spending decreased by 16 percent from 2008-2009.

    In the face of this downward trend in imaging use, Congress and government agencies have continued to limit the use of advanced imaging services by cutting Medicare reimbursements and making recommendations that restrict patients’ access to them.  The implication 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.

    “Advanced imaging is a critical tool for the early detection of disease, which is directly related to beneficial outcomes and extension of lives,” said John A. Patti, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors.  “The trend of reduced volume of imaging among Medicare beneficiaries is a concern for doctors who rely on these services to ensure optimal care for their patients.”

    Mark F. Victor, MD, vice president of medical affairs for the Cardiology Advocacy Alliance agreed, noting, “Cardiac patients can’t afford lengthy delays in diagnosis and treatment due to limited access to diagnostic imaging tools. It is essential that our policies put our patients first.”

    On Monday, President Obama is scheduled to deliver his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012.   As Congress considers spending for the coming year, Trysla said, “We encourage policymakers to consider the value of medical imaging in saving lives and preserving quality of life, while preventing higher health care costs over the long term.”

    To view the Moran study executive summary please click here.

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