Planned Medicare cuts will ‘cripple specialty providers,’ radiology groups warn congressional leaders

Radiology groups are continuing their full-court press on congressional leaders, seeking to avert tens of millions in Medicare cuts to the specialty arriving on Jan. 1.

The latest plea came in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, imploring them to waive budget neutrality requirements. Their concerns stem from a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ plan to boost pay for primary care and other providers that bill for evaluation and management services. This necessitates a corresponding cut elsewhere that falls in the lap of radiology and other specialties, the 10 societies noted.

“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 Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Radiology Business Management Association and others wrote Oct. 9. “The drastic budget neutrality adjustments required by CMS will cripple specialty providers unless Congress acts to waive budget neutrality.”

SNMMI highlighted the letter in a Tuesday news update, noting that nuclear medicine stands to sustain an 8% reduction in payment while radiology will see its pay drop 11%. Absent action from Congress, Medicare beneficiaries will likely see reduced access to care amid consolidation in the industry. Providers are already struggling to find a foothold during 2020’s challenging business climate, making this an “inopportune time” to reduce reimbursement, they wrote.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians and healthcare providers face not only an unprecedented public health challenge but serious economic ones, too,” they said.

The letter—also addressed to minority leaders Charles Schumer in the Senate and Kevin McCarthy in the House—is the latest in a series of attempts to quash the Medicare cuts. RBMA sent its own note to CMS Administrator Seema Verma Oct. 3, highlighting a member survey which found that 50% of practices plan to reduce staffing in 2021. And ACR alongside a coalition of 1.4 million providers sent another letter Oct. 5, praising a legislative fix recently introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD, R-Texas.

Others signing the Oct. 9 message included the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, the Association for Medical Imaging Management, the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, among others.