August 4, 2006—Yesterday afternoon, the Senate version of the Access to Medicare Imaging Act, which would declare a two-year moratorium on Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) imaging cuts and require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to assess their validity and viability, was filed by Senators Gordon Smith (R-Ore) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa).

The Senate bill, S 3795, was introduced with eight cosponsors, a number the Access to Medicare Imaging Coalition (AMIC) hopes to expand to 25 by September. Particularly of interest to AMIC are members of the Senate Finance Committee. The equivalent house bill, HR 5704, now has 68 cosponsors, with AMIC hoping for 100 by September.

AMIC members wish to alert Congress to the fact that imaging cuts comprise about one third of the Medicare savings in the DRA, even though imaging constitutes only one tenth of Medicare spending. Of additional concern is the fact that the imaging cuts were included in the DRA without the usual hearings.

The National Coalition for Quality Diagnostic Imaging Services (NCQDIS) also supports the legislation. “The DRA includes broad-based cuts in radiology services that will devastate the industry and hurt patient care,” said Cherrill Farnsworth, executive director of NCQDIS. “Because the DRA fails to take into account quality and access-to-care issues, the proposed cuts could have serious impact on access to needed diagnostic services for Medicare beneficiaries, especially patients living in rural areas. This Senate bill protects that access while offering time to study the effects on our nation’s most vulnerable patients, senior citizens.”

Arl Van Moore, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Board of Chancellors, said, “The GAO study called for by S 3795 is vital in light of recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission admissions that neither body recommended the DRA cuts to Congress nor conducted any study as to their effect on patient access prior to passage of the DRA. To have such deep cuts go into effect without a thorough review would create an unfair burden for patients. The detrimental effects on the American health care system caused by these unsubstantiated cuts will be felt for many years to come.”

—Cat Vasko