International Day of Radiology — November 8, 2012 — marks the 117th anniversary of the discovery of the X-ray and the tremendous advances in patient care made possible by radiation therapy and medical imaging exams, such as MRI and CT scans. It is also a reminder that Congress needs to pass the Diagnostic Imaging Services Access Protection Act (H.R. 3269/ S. 2347) and halt drastic cuts in Medicare funding for imaging scans. This vital legislation would preserve ready access to lifesaving imaging care and may help reduce harm to seniors already resulting from cutbacks.
Medical imaging scans have virtually eliminated exploratory surgeries, reduced unnecessary hospital admissions and often shorten hospital stays. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, access to medical imaging is directly linked to greater life expectancy. Those with greater access to scans live longer than other Americans. Yet, approximately $5 billion in Medicare imaging cuts since 2006 threatens to turn back the clock on advances against cancer and other serious illnesses, and in some cases, is resulting in physical harm to seniors.
"A Dec. 2011 study in Health Affairs found that as many as 12,000 American seniors may have suffered broken bones due to Medicare cuts in reimbursement for just one type of imaging scan (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry - "DEXA"). There have been more than $5 billion in cuts, involving many different exams, over the last six years. These injuries could be part of a larger trend of physical harm resulting from these cuts. Congress needs to act now to stop the damage to patient care that the arbitrary and blind cuts are inflicting," said Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors.
The recurring funding reductions are also forcing many imaging providers to cut back services or close. This harms access to care for not only seniors, but others who need care. For instance, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are now more than 200 fewer mammography facilities and nearly 1,200 fewer mammography scanners available to Americans than in January 2007 when massive imaging cuts began.