Sound OFF: Medicare Cuts Imaging “bread and butter” dollars

People are talking!

Discussing the Medicare cuts scheduled for operators of CR imaging equipment. This regulation was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 signed by the President in December, 2015. It caught many facilities in the crosshairs.

Medicare is pushing imaging providers to adopt digital technology. CMS has scheduled reimbursement cuts starting in 2017 of 20% for those still providing analog imaging. There are just a miniscule number of analog imaging providers remaining nationwide. The effects of this change should be minimal for most facilities. However the cuts scheduled for CR equipment has the potential to affect many.

Reports from IMV Medical Information Division’s 2015 X-ray Market Report estimates the fixed x-ray hospital installations in the United States at 16,775 units, not including mobile units or outpatient installations. CR systems comprise almost 50% of those installations. Medicare has implemented a rule to reduce payments for imaging studies performed on CR starting in 2018 by 7% for the next five years and 10% after that.

The choice to install CR equipment is generally a financial decision because DR equipment is much more expensive. It is possible to convert the analog xray operation to CR at a much lower capital investment. As difficult as it is to get legislation through Congress in today’s political climate, this legislation was favored as it will save the government $350 Million over the next 10 years. It will do so by penalizing a hospital lowering their Medicare payments.

There are no statistics to tell us how much CR equipment exists outside the radiology department in other parts of the hospital or who the operators might be.

It is clear the impact will be most important to those facilities who are struggling financially. Rural healthcare, lower income neighborhoods with overly saturated Medicare patient populations will suffer more than their city based counterparts.

Digital imaging and technology are the state of the art with Picture Archiving and Communication Systems that can send images, reports, and consultations around the world. But finding the extra funds to purchase or upgrade equipment that may not be at full utilization is an expensive alternative. We consistently say that healthcare must be run like a business.
But there is no business that invests in expensive technology to satisfy one client when there is no return on investment.

How will this change affect your community hospital?
This is your chance to SOUND OFF.

Click this link to SOUND OFF in our survey.

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