Debt Ceiling Debate and Potential Medicare Imaging Cuts

July 20, 2011

Debt Ceiling Debate and Potential Medicare Imaging Cuts

As we head into the second half of 2011, Congress continues its negotiations with the White House on deficit reduction legislation and raising the debt ceiling.  A current plan being proposed by Congress could include cuts to medical imaging services and Graduate Medical Education (GME).

Medicare reimbursements for medical imaging procedures have been cut seven separate times since 2006.  These extreme cuts have helped delay possible innovation in medical imaging which negatively affects patients who are then denied proper care.  Additionally, these cuts have caused physicians to delay updating their equipment.  This could lead to patients being unable to get the most appropriate treatment.

A significant cut to Graduate Medical Education (GME) is also being considered.  Medicare funding is currently the primary financial support for GME.  Hospitals have a limited amount of resources available and have residencies encompassing a wide variety of medical fields.  If Medicare reduces or eliminates GME, the resources to continue to fund programs with low numbers of residents such as nuclear medicine do not exist at the hospital level. It is entirely possible that all funding for nuclear medicine residents will disappear as hospitals are challenged financially and must respond with cuts of their own.

Recently, Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Kohl (D-WI) drafted a letter to President Obama expressing their apprehension to cuts for medical imaging services and the negative affects it would have on physicians and their patients.  The deadline to sign this letter is Tuesday, July 19th.  

These proposed cuts to Medicare payments for medical imaging services are both ill-advised and unnecessary. As a result, SNM is calling on our members to contact their representatives in Congress today and encourage them to oppose any additional cuts to medical imaging services.

Contact information for Member offices can be found at the House of Representatives and Senate websites. If you are unsure of your Congressman, you can search by area code or contact SNM at HPRA@snm.org.

SNM will continue to update our website as more specifics become available on the provision.