The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) has joined a coalition of leading diagnostic and medical imaging groups in sending a letter to congressional leadership urging them to delay payment cuts to specialty providers by waiving budget neutrality for reimbursement changes included in Medicare’s proposed Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Rule for CY 2021. The letter comes as specialty providers continue to cope with the unprecedented financial impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Alongside MITA, letter signatories included the American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the Association for Quality Imaging, the Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA), the Center for Diagnostic Imaging (CDI), the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA), Shields Healthcare Group, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (SDMS).

“As healthcare providers continue to grapple with the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency, proceeding with debilitating payment cuts to over 30 specialty providers is irresponsible,” says Patrick Hope, executive director of MITA. “These cuts will undermine patient access to care, including medical imaging procedures that can improve treatment outcomes and reduce downstream healthcare costs.”

“The cuts to radiology will result in significant delays and reduced access for countless women seeking mammograms and other procedures,” says Kit Crancer, vice president of Public Policy for Center for Diagnostic Imaging. “These are not numbers on a spreadsheet—CMS is playing with real access to essential-to-care diagnostic procedures at a time when the country is in crisis.”

Under the proposed PFS rule, a new structure will be established to increase the valuation of evaluation and management (E/M) services. Unfortunately, the rule will lead to staggering cuts for specialties that do not frequently bill E/M visits, including radiologists, oncologists, cardiologists, and physical and occupational therapists. 

“During the next month, while Congress is on recess, we all should consider this as an opportunity to remind Members of Congress what’s at stake in the months ahead: Our profession—and many specialties like ours—are at risk of grave cuts at a time when the country can least afford them,” says Bob Still, executive director RBMA.  

As the letter signatories note, “the E/M changes were developed in a very different period than the one we are living in and coping with today. We do not oppose improving payments for E/M billed office visits, like primary care, but this moment is the wrong time for significant cuts to essential services. The drastic budget neutrality adjustments required by CMS will all but cripple specialty providers unless Congress acts to waive budget neutrality.”

The coalition letter comes after MITA recently wrote a comment letter urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay implementation of the forthcoming E/M changes, asserting that such drastic payment cuts would have a “profoundly negative impact on specialty physicians, including radiologists, and other healthcare professionals that provide medical imaging services to Medicare beneficiaries.” 

“Should these cuts go into effect in January of 2021, many physician offices and medical imaging providers will be forced to furlough staff, reduce investment in research, and delay or outright cancel investments in new equipment and replacement parts. As a result, patients who have delayed regular treatment due to the pandemic will find themselves returning to a healthcare ecosystem with fewer options and less access to care–a reality that will have a long-term, negative impact on public health,” Hope concluded.

Read the full coalition letter at MITA