Berkley Bill Seeks To Protect Patient Access To Vital Osteoporosis Testing
Seeking to protect patient access to osteoporosis testing, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has introduced H.R. 1894, The Medicare Fracture Prevention and Osteoporosis Testing Act of 2009. The legislation would reverse the drastic cuts in Medicare reimbursement for the use of Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA). The imaging procedure, used to measure bone health, is accepted as the gold standard for diagnosing osteoporosis.
"Osteoporosis is a silent disease that often goes undetected until a fall or other injury results in a broken bone. The utilization of DXA testing is one of the best ways we have to help prevent osteoporosis-related fractures, which are costly and can be devastating to the overall health of older patients," said Representative Berkley. "As someone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, I want all Americans to have access to these tests. We need to build awareness of this disease and the proper steps needed to maintain healthy bones."
DXA is a key tool in identifying those at risk for osteoporosis and helping those with the disease monitor their bone health. It is a recognized, reliable tool for preventing and reducing costly fractures. A companion bill (S. 769) has been introduced by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Berkley's legislation in the House is cosponsored by Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX).
"Bone density measurements are vital tests that detect critical and treatable medical conditions, such as osteoporosis," Senator Blanche Lincoln said. "Approximately 44 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass. They may only discover that they have osteoporosis after falling and breaking a hip or other bones, injuries that cost billions of dollars each year. Ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries have access to bone density tests is cost effective and can literally save lives."
"Osteoporosis now causes an estimated 2 million fractures each year and often results in immobility, pain, placement in a nursing home, isolation and other health problemsconditions and circumstances that could largely be prevented through proper bone density testing and diagnosis," said Robert Recker, M.D., President of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. "We need Congress to pass this legislation to ensure access to these important medical tests for the 10 million individuals with osteoporosis and the 34 million individuals estimated to have low bone mass across the country."
Outside the hospital setting, Medicare reimbursement for DXA has been reduced to levels substantially below the cost to perform the procedure. As a result, many physicians and clinics around the country are discontinuing this necessary health service greatly limiting the public's access to the test and jeopardizing patients' quality of healthcare.
Drastically low levels of reimbursement for the tests create unnecessary barriers for those who cannot take the time for multiple healthcare provider visits and pose a serious threat to the frail and elderly who cannot travel long distances, particularly those living in rural areas. According to estimates, less than 20 percent of those who are eligible are being tested for osteoporosis; this number is expected to plunge if patients' access to bone density testing is reduced.
Berkley's legislation builds on federal initiatives already in place that support fracture prevention efforts and improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, including recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the 2004 Surgeon General's Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, and inclusion of bone density testing in the Welcome to Medicare exam.
The DXA Task Force, comprised of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Rheumatology, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, International Society for Clinical Densitometry and The Endocrine Society urges Congress to pass this legislation to reverse the drastic cuts in Medicare reimbursement for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), the imaging procedure accepted as the gold standard for diagnosing osteoporosis.