A number of medical specialty associations, including the American College of Radiology, Radiology Business Management Association, and other healthcare provider groups have written a letter to Congress, asking the national lawmakers to relieve radiology practices that have been until great turmoil due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Requests Made in the Letter
The letter that has been sent to the leaders in the House and Senate has been signed by these associations, in which they have requested the lawmakers to consider six remedies of the legislation to provide help in the field. These include the following:
- Providing extra financial support to the radiologists, physicians, and other healthcare providers. Due to the huge decline in radiology practices, hospital systems are going through massive losses, and they are not even able to pay for their rent and payrolls.
- Relinquishing budget neutrality requirements for Medicare payment changes for management and evaluation of services. Healthcare providers are not able to maintain their operations during this situation, and implementing payment change policies at this time is not the right step to take. This will only make the healthcare system more unstable and economically burdened.
- Granting hazard pay to all radiology and medical imaging workers, including radiation therapists, radiologic technologists, sonographers, nuclear medicine practitioners, etc., since they are tirelessly working and risking themselves to serve people during the pandemic.
- Reducing liabilities for emergency responders and healthcare workers during this time, and extending broad civil immunity to them for any death or injury caused while providing medical services during the COVID-19 situation.
- Appending prior authorization, clinics may not be prepared for handling the sudden burden caused due to the COVID-19 outbreak over the last few months. There has been a surge in the number of patients arriving at medical facilities, and they may not have the required number of staff to handle prior authorization requirements. Therefore, any prior authorization requirements should be temporarily suspended to accelerate the process and avoid the backlog of patients.
- Delaying appropriate use criteria, since elective procedures are being postponed in the present situation, and care is being provided to emergency cases only.
According to the associations, these modifications will simplify the things during this unusual COVID-19 situation, as at present, they are going through an overwhelming amount of examinations queued to be done in the next few months.
In the letter, the associations have asked the Congress to incorporate these modifications into the upcoming COVID relief bill as per the industrial standards and requirements. In case such changes cannot be incorporated into the bill in 2020, they are even asking the authorities to extend the present educational testing period to 2021.
What’s the Issue?
At present times, only urgent imaging procedures are being entertained, and any elective procedures are being postponed for the future. Such a scenario is amassing a huge backlog that the radiologists and healthcare providers have to tackle in the coming months. Due to this, it will become extremely difficult and overwhelming for the providers to manage such a huge influx of overdue treatment, scans and surgeries.
Over the last few years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been operational in implementing the Protecting Access to Medicare Act, 2014. This aims at making AUC consultation mandatory before referring a Medicare beneficiary for an advanced diagnostic imaging service. However, the implementation of the program is being delayed for a long time, which can be solved with a number of technical modifications in the PAMA law.
According to PAMA law, it is mandatory for the referring providers to consult appropriate use criteria before any Medicare beneficiaries are sent for an advanced diagnostic imaging service. In a news post published on April 29, 2020, the American College of Radiology stated that the modifications being suggested by them would allow the implementation of the critical utilization program by CMS without the need to revert to the delays and disruptions in existing authorization programs.
About the Letter
Here is a list of bodies that have signed the letter:
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- Association for Medical Imaging Management
- Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance
- American College of Radiology
- Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging
- Association for Quality Imaging
- Center for Diagnostic Imaging
- Radiology Business Management Association
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
MITA (Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance) too has laid emphasis on the request in a news article published recently.
As it is clear from the letter, the COVID-19 pandemic situation has forced a number of radiology departments and practices to make some really difficult decisions for their regular operations. These include reducing operations, accepting pay cuts, and sending staff members on leave.
According to a recent report, there has been a significant decrease in the number of cancer screenings being done, especially in cases where medical imaging has to be done. As a result of this, a number of cancer cases are being left undetected, which can have a great impact on the health and financial cost of the patients in the long run. This applies not only to the current pandemic situation but also when the world emerges out of the situation and comes back to normal.
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