ACR, ASTRO cry foul over imaging cuts in 2023 Omnibus bill

2020 07 01 22 14 2802 Washington Dc Capitol 400

Congress on December 20 released the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill (H.R. 2617), and the package doesn't bode well for imaging and radiation oncology, according to the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

Although it would include measures to reduce some of the drastic Medicare physician pay cuts scheduled to take effect January 1, the legislation also sets a conversion factor increase of just 2.5% in 2023 and 1.25% in 2024. That's lower than the 4.5% increase advocated by the medical community, the ACR said.

The bill will negatively impact patient care, said Dr. Jacqueline Bello, chair of the ACR's board of directors, in a statement.

"At a still precarious time for practices coming off a pandemic, with increased inflation, and already declining reimbursement, we are disappointed Congress has not protected patient access to care by fully offsetting these added cuts," she said. "All of medicine must work with lawmakers in 2023 to enact Medicare payment reform that stabilizes the provider environment and safeguards patient access to lifesaving care in their communities."

The 2% reduction in the Medicare physician payment conversion factor -- and an additional 1% cut for radiation oncology due to clinical labor price changes -- comes at a time at a time when, post-COVID-19 pandemic, patients are returning to clinics for cancer care, often with more advanced disease, ASTRO said in a statement.

"On behalf of ASTRO's 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals who specialize in treating cancer patients with radiation therapy, ASTRO is disappointed that Congress failed to stop the full Medicare physician payment cuts for 2023," the society said in a statement. "Radiation oncology has faced among the most significant cuts of any medical specialty, leaving community-based clinics at the breaking point. We urge the new Congress to immediately begin payment reform discussions, including working with ASTRO and the radiation oncology community to create a new, sustainable payment approach for radiation therapy services."

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