A white paper released by Americas Health Insurance Plans supports the Government Accountability Offices findings that high-tech imaging services are too costly and may be used inappropriately.
The GAO report found that Medicare spending on imaging services paid for under the physician fee schedule has more than doubled, rising to roughly $14 billion between 2000 and 2006. Use of and spending on more costly imaging services such as CT scans and MRIs increased faster than for more standard services such as ultrasound and X-ray, according to the report. During the same period, the GAO found the proportion of imaging services performed in physician offices rose, while in-office spending per beneficiary varied considerably across regions, suggesting that not all utilization, according to GAO, was necessary or appropriate, according to an AHIP news release regarding the white paper.
AHIPs paper found that a wide range of high-tech diagnostic imaging failed to provide information that improved patient diagnosis and treatment and could potentially be redundant or unnecessary. About $26.5 billion each year is spent on unnecessary use of CT scans and MRI tests alone, AHIP stated, citing statistics from the research outfit McKinsey Global Institute.
The insurance trade group specifically cited a link between inappropriate imaging and unnecessary exposure to radiation. One estimate indicates that as many as 1.5% to 2% of all cancers in the U.S. may be attributable to radiation from CT scans, the paper stated. In its report, the GAO recommended that the CMS consider additional management practices to curb Medicares rapid spending growth on imaging services. -- by Jennifer Lubell