December 28, 2009 - The Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) said in a recent statement it is pleased that the U.S. Congress has passed a fix to freeze the conversion factor at the 2009 rate for physicians, which will ensure that millions of patients continue to receive medical coverage for critical diagnostic imaging tests and therapeutics. However, SNM cautions that a long-term solution is necessary to address this ongoing problem.
"We urge Congress to take action now to implement a long-term formula that adequately addresses the level of demand—and actual cost of providing these services," said Michael M. Graham, Ph.D., M.D., president of SNM. "This is a critical issue facing the medical community, and we need to continue to work together to protect the patients we serve."
On Dec. 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3326, which delays cuts to reimbursement rates for physicians, which have been looming on the horizon and would affect nearly one-third of the American public who are eligible for coverage through Medicare or Medicaid, if implemented. The Senate approved the measure on Dec. 19. Significant cuts in the reimbursement rates for physicians will be postponed until March 1, 2010. In the short-term, the fix to the SGR will protect cuts to medical care. If a long-term fix is not approved, Medicare funding could be cut by more than 21 percent next year.
"At this time, the term ‘SGR fix’ is really a misnomer," said Graham. "A two-month patch is not a resolution to an ongoing issue that has been affecting patients and the medical community. While this is a good temporary measure, we hope that the Senate will take swift action to establish a permanent solution." After the temporary fix expires, physicians would once again face severe cuts in the level of reimbursement they receive for caring for Medicare patients. Previously, Congress has failed to approve a permanent fix to the SGR, instead passing a series of one-year patches to prevent proposed cuts.
"While patches have worked in the short-term, they do not really address the chronic issue," Graham said. Cumulatively, the effect is that medical reimbursement rates have not kept pace with inflation—even while the cost of health care escalates."
SNM continues to work with members of Congress and other medical societies to ensure that coverage remains a priority on the national health care agenda.
For more information: www.snm.org