The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, enacted in early 2006, is designed to cut $40 billion in federal spending (about $6 billion in Medicare spending) over five years.  Section 5102 of the DRA (P.L. 109-171), effective January 1, 2007, would rationalize payments made to different types of providers for the same imaging services.  Generally speaking, hospitals are paid more than non-hospital providers for the same services, but there are circumstances in which physician offices and imaging centers are being paid more than hospitals.  Thus, this section of the DRA will be affecting the non-hospital providers.

As the effective date draws nearer, legislation has been filed (the "Access to Medicare Imaging Act of 2006") that would delay the effective date for two years, and require a GAO study in the interim.

Freestanding imaging centers have, of necessity, begun planning for the January 1 effective date, but are ever hopeful that their pleas will be heard in Washington.  There is a healthy tradition of delayed and phased implementation of new Medicare reimbursement rules, so it is not unlikely that the imaging centers will obtain some measure of relief.

Stay tuned.