Harkin Proposes Higher Medicare Reimbursements for Mammograms
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on Jan. 11 announced plans to introduce legislation to increase Medicare reimbursements for mammograms, the Des Moines Register reports. Harkin said his bill would seek to make reimbursements for mammograms "more closely match" the cost of the procedure. Medicare currently reimburses approximately 68% of the "technical cost" of mammograms, but only 32% of doctors' "professional" costs. Harkin said too few seniors currently have access to breast cancer screening because of "inadequate" payment rates, as well as physicians' fear of malpractice suits and a shortage of qualified technicians. "Early detection is the key to reducing the disastrous effects of breast cancer, and we must do everything we can to ensure all women have access to annual screenings," said Harkin, who lost two sisters to breast cancer. Harkin also announced that he plans to ask the General Accounting Office to investigate Medicare reimbursement practices for "gender-specific procedures," citing studies that have found higher reimbursement rates for procedures performed only on men (Norman, Des Moines Register, 1/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.