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Cardiologists Warn Proposed Changes Would Close Outpatient Cardiac Cath Labs
Date:6/3/2008

Patients would experience higher costs and longer waits

NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cardiologists around the country are speaking out against drastic payment cuts that could force the closure of many outpatient catheterization labs, creating long waits and dramatically increasing out-of-pocket costs for thousands of Medicare beneficiaries.

Under proposed changes from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), reimbursement for cardiac catheterization procedures performed in non- hospital outpatient labs would be reduced 47 percent by 2010. Once fully implemented, non-hospital cath labs would receive reimbursements several hundred dollars below the cost of performing the procedure. Because private insurers typically follow CMS's lead, the cuts could create a dangerous domino effect that would reduce reimbursements from all payor sources, driving many non-hospital labs out of business.

More than 45 members of the Cardiovascular Outpatient Center Alliance (COCA), a non-profit organization representing more than 60 cardiology practices across the nation, recently met with members of Congress to ask them to intervene and request that CMS set fair and reasonable reimbursement consistent with the cost of the procedure.

"In addition to closing outpatient cath labs around the country, the proposed cuts would have a devastating effect on the entire healthcare system," said Steve Blades, president of COCA. "Patients would be forced back into crowded hospital settings where the cost of the same procedure is significantly higher, resulting in long waits and greater out-of-pocket expense. As a result, the federal government would incur $45 to $50 million in increased costs, defeating the very purpose of these reductions."

Based on published 2008 Medicare reimbursement numbers, patient co- payments also would increase by $500 - or 157 percent - while access to catheterization services would be dimin
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SOURCE Cardiovascular Outpatient Center Alliance
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