Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Radiology: What’s Coming in 2012

Published on the Feb. 16, 2012, DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Throughout 2011, most chatter in radiology centered around how healthcare reform would change the industry or how practitioners should manage and use newer modalities. In a look ahead at the next 12 months, many industry luminaries anticipate the same concerns will linger on the horizon even as new ones appear.

Some of the upcoming challenges touch the individual radiologist’s pocketbook; others affect practice. Regardless of the specifics, radiologists will do well to revamp how they view themselves as part of the healthcare system, said James Thrall, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) radiologist-in-chief and former American College of Radiology president.

Financial Implications

Radiology’s biggest concern for 2012 is a holdover from last year — bundled payments and reduced reimbursement. Under the proposed accountable care model, radiology reimbursements would be wrapped up in a lump-sum amount that includes facility, physician, and technical payments.

It’s the ambiguity of these packaged payment’s impact that make them the industry’s greatest challenge this year, said, Leonard Berlin, MD, former chair of the professionalism committee with the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Leonard Berlin, MD, former chair of the professionalism committee for the Radiological Society of North America

“There’s no question that there’s been a definite move to decrease reimbursement for radiology at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” Berlin said. “All the projections for radiology reimbursement have it falling, meaning that practitioners, for 2012 and beyond, will need to find a way to maintain and manage a workload that is sometimes heavier for less money.”

The ACR is also concerned about reduced payments. Currently, the organization’s No. 1 priority is working with Congress to extend the temporary fix to Medicare’s sustainable growth rate, the formula used to control healthcare spending. The stop-gap measure, enacted in December 2011, averted a 27 percent physician payment reduction, and the ACR would like to extend the fix permanently.

“We’re also watching carefully to see if we can stop the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from making any multiple procedure payment reductions,” said Cindy Moran, ACR’s government relations assistant executive director, referring to cuts in payment when two or more codes are performed to the same patient by the same physician during a single session. “But we are also assuming, with this being an election year, that we might be faced with a lame duck Congress.”

Changes could also be coming to codes that routinely appear together, said Maurine Spillman-Dennis, ACR’s senior director of health policy. CMS is analyzing whether procedure codes that are often linked 50 percent, 75 percent, and 90 percent of the time can be bundled, reducing overall reimbursement for those services.

“We are involved in an evolution toward a new payment model. The bottom line is that healthcare is turning away from the fee-for-service system and moving toward capitated services,” Spillman-Dennis said. “It will be a challenge for radiology to fight under this new care delivery model and make sure its practitioners are paid for services provided.”

To read the remainder of the article: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/content/article/113619/2033254

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February 16, 2012 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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