The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) joined a broad coalition of concerned imaging stakeholders in sending a letter urging congressional lawmakers to include direct financial support to radiology providers in the next COVID-19 legislative relief package. The urgent request comes as hospitals and private practices alike face unprecedented economic and operational challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Signatories of the letter included MITA, the American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA), the Association for Quality Imaging (AQI), the Center for Diagnostic Imaging (CDI), the Radiology Business and Management Association (RBMA), the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) and the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).
“As this letter makes clear, the coronavirus pandemic and surge of COVID-19 cases have forced many radiology practices and departments to make difficult decisions about reducing operations, taking pay cuts, and furloughing staff,” said Dennis Durmis, senior vice president – Radiology Head of Americas Region, Bayer, and Chair of the MITA Board of Directors. “With recent data showing a dramatic decline in cancer screenings, especially where medical imaging is used, we can also reasonably expect that many cancers are going undetected. This will have an enormous human and financial cost, both during and after we emerge from the other side of this pandemic.”
Beyond direct financial support to health care providers of imaging services, the coalition also requested that Congress waive budget neutrality provisions within The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) rule for CY 2020; deliver hazard pay to frontline and essential medical imaging and radiology workers, including sonographers, radiation therapists, nuclear medicine, and radiologic technologists; extend broad civil immunity, with exceptions for gross negligence or willful misconduct, to all health care personnel who are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic; and the temporary waiving of prior authorization requirements and appropriate use criteria (AUC) consultation for the duration of the national emergency.
The letter comes after MITA individually sent a similar request directly to lawmakers on the same day. That letter, which was signed by Dennis Durmis, also requested direct financial support to providers, as well as inclusion of the “Medicare Diagnostic Radiopharmaceutical Payment Equity Act of 2019” (H.R. 3772) in the next relief package, among other requests.
According to recent predictions from the Yale School of Management, radiology practices and radiology departments should expect volume decreases as high as 70 percent over the next several months. More broadly, hospital systems are projecting losses in the billions as routine health services are cut, and many small practices are struggling to meet short-term obligations, such as payroll and rent. Even after the crisis reaches its zenith – a timeline that is still fluid – necessary infection control measures in health care settings will further increase costs, putting untenable financial stress on already beleaguered providers.