Government To Decide On Payment For Doctors Who Use Medical-Imaging

The government is weighing whether to cut Medicare payments to physicians who use medical-imaging machines to screen patients for diseases like cancer and heart problems. The decision could come as early as Friday. Lawmakers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services see the cuts as a way to prevent overuse of the technology, which drives up health care costs.

The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones reports: "The decision will likely stir controversy, because the government has proposed cutting by up to 38% the amount it pays the roughly one million doctors who participate in Medicare when they use disease-screening equipment for procedures like MRIs and CT scans. The move could also have implications for makers of this equipment, including General Electric Co. (GE), Siemens AG (SI) and Eastman Kodak Co. (EK). ... The proposed rule would affect doctors and health professionals who are paid under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and also would result in cutting payments for radiation oncology procedures. A broad coalition of congressmen, doctors and patient-advocacy groups have decried such a move, saying the radiology equipment is necessary to treat patients who already are shown to have cancer" (Favole, 10/29).

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