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Much attention was focused this week on Medicare physician payment adequacy. The challenges of rising physician practice costs due to inflation and other factors caused the American Medical Association joined by numerous national medical societies -- as well as diagnostic imaging industry leaders -- to make separate appeals to Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) payment increases in 2024. Also, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommended in its March 2023 report to Congress that there be an increase in the 2024 Medicare physician payment rate above current law with an inflation-based payment update tied to the MEI.
A collection of companies and organizations, representing providers of medical imaging services and manufacturers of medical imaging devices, sent a letter this week to the administrator of CMS urging action on Medicare payments to protect access to medical imaging services. Signing that letter were the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA), Radiology Partners, RadNet, RAYUS Radiology, Shields Health, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), and Zotec Partners. Their letter cited research published in January 2022, in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology, documenting the overall extent of Medicare reimbursement decline in the 50 most common imaging studies in diagnostic radiology, which demonstrated a combined mean reduction of inflation-adjusted payments of 44.4% across these 50 imaging studies over a 10-year time frame. In order to reverse this downward spiral, the signers requested that CMS take whatever steps it has within its authority to ensure adequate and appropriate payment for medical imaging services in CY 2024.
One can only hope the payment uptick recommendation from MedPAC, as well as the letter writing campaign, can help reverse the perennial history of Medicare physician payment cuts. Unquestionably, action is required from CMS and Congress to reverse course next year.
For calendar year 2024, the Congress should update the 2023 Medicare base payment rate for physician and other health professional services by 50 percent of the projected increase in the Medicare Economic Index.