Crowley disputes cutback of medical imaging funds

Elizabeth Crowley
By Jeremy Walsh

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) called on the federal government not to cut funding for medical imaging, citing a spike in wait times in the city over the past decade.

“We need to be expanding access to health care, not reducing it,” Crowley said at a news conference in front of City Hall last Thursday. “Medical imaging is at the forefront for early cancer diagnosis and treatment, and every day a patient has to wait for a screening the more at risk they are.”

Crowley cited a 2007 study commissioned by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) showing the city had lost 67 imaging clinics offering mammography screenings since 1999, a 26 percent decline.

As a result the average wait time for an appointment in the city was more than five weeks. The average wait in Queens was four to six weeks, while Brooklyn and the Bronx had an average wait time of eight weeks, the longest in the city.

Since 1999, the city has experienced a 171 percent increase in wait time for mammography screenings, according to a recent Congressional study. The currently proposed federal cuts would result in a further 40 percent reimbursement reduction for some imaging services, putting more providers and patients at risk.

The proposed cuts would come to Medicare. Congress is considering two options: requiring prior authorization for a physician to use medical imaging on a patient like many private health plans do or restructuring the payment formula so the health care provider’s reimbursement is much lower.

A Congressional Budget Office report last December suggested the first proposal would save the government $220 million between 2010 and 2014 and about $1 billion between 2010 and 2019.

“Medical imaging can be the difference between life and death and we cannot afford nor allow these cuts to come to fruition,” Quinn said. “Preventative health care should be a top priority, not cutting vital services.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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