Feature | July 09, 2008 | Cristen C. Bolan

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Cristen C. Bolan, Editor of Imaging Technology News

Many of our readers are wondering how the federal health policy to require a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare’s physician reimbursement rates on July 1, 2008, and an additional 5 percent on January 1, 2009, will affect capital equipment purchases, technology and staffing.
While we won’t know for sure until it happens, we were able to get an insider’s opinion on the matter from senior vice president and North American risk leader for the mid- and large-ticket equipment finance business of GE Healthcare Financial Services, Douglas Lynch.
Now, do you want the good news first? Ok. As for the 10.6 percent cut in reimbursement - according to Lynch - a bipartisan congressional effort, with AMA endorsement, appears likely to prevent any immediate reductions in physician reimbursement rates. Whew, that’s a relief.
Now for the second-half of the question. Will a 5 percent cut restrict hospitals and physician practices from making capital equipment and technology purchases, and force them to reduce FTEs? Lynch says no DRA-like cuts for imaging procedures appear to be imminent. However, pending legislation does provide for phased-in accreditation for providers of advanced imaging services and a pilot program to establish clinical guidelines and utilization controls. You know what that means - ultimately, this could impact payments for the technical component for these services, which, over time may negatively impact capital equipment purchases for diagnostic imaging.
This is merely speculation, so please, until we know for sure, don’t shoot the messenger.