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2012 Proposed Physician Fee Schedule

The new proposed physician fee schedule for 2012 that was released last month depicts an unfortunate future for radiologists in the imaging world. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has already reduced what it pays for the technical component of multiple scan procedures for patients provided on the same day.  The new proposal would expand the reduction to the professional component of interpreting the images.

This latest proposal of cuts in imaging has prompted a very strong reaction from the radiology community.

“These proposed cuts are not evidence-based and simply represent blind cost-cutting. Current payments to doctors for advanced imaging interpretations are an accurate reflection of the complexity of the process and should not be arbitrarily slashed. As radiologists’ interpretation of scans is vital to the diagnosis of cancer and a host of other deadly illnesses and injury, we are ethically bound to provide a thorough review of each image. The time, intensity and mental effort it takes to interpret an individual exam is relatively constant regardless of whether the patients’ exams are interpreted separately or at the same session. Medicare should support such quality care and not repeatedly attempt to undermine it,” said John A. Patti, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors.

A physician who interprets more than one MRI or CT scan taken of the same patient during the same visit can expect to see a 50% reduction in pay for the interpretation of second and subsequent scans.  The goal of CMS is to save money by reducing rates for overvalued services to be reallocated to other services, such as primary care, that CMS considers undervalued. 

Comments can be made on the proposed rule through August 31st, 2011.  Click here to share your thoughts.

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