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Patient Group Urges Fix To DXA Screening Reimbursement Rates To Encourage More Osteoporosis Screenings

Today, as Medicare Open Enrollment starts, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) urged policymakers to raise the reimbursement rates for x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) screenings, which are the gold standard for osteoporosis screenings. Currently, bipartisan bills are sitting in both Chambers that would help patients access DXA screenings (H.R.1898 and S.3160).

“For many seniors over age 65, Medicare is a staple for continued access to quality health care and sustained overall good health. For first-time enrollees, the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam covers preventative screenings, shots, and referrals to other care. One such screening offered is a DXA bone density screening intended to prevent or diagnose osteoporosis – a condition that weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures.

“Osteoporosis screenings are extremely effective in diagnosing and detecting loss in bone density, and when combined with treatment are proven to decrease hip fractures in older adults. Of these screenings, DXA is considered the gold standard.”

“However, many physicians’ offices no longer offer DXA tests because the reimbursement rate has steadily declined over the past decade. In order to get the test, patients have to go to a hospital or other outpatient facility instead of their doctor’s office. For many patients in rural communities, the nearest hospital is hours away. Due to this issue, the last few years have seen a significant drop in the number of adults getting DXA screenings. Now, a once positive downward trend in hip fractures has ended and we are starting to see an increase in hip fractures. Between 2013-2015 there were 11,000 more hip fractures than expected.

“This Open Enrollment period, many seniors will enroll in Medicare for the first time and we encourage them to take advantage of preventive osteoporosis screenings like DXA. We also urge Congress and the Administration to act to raise the reimbursement rates so we can reverse the current concerning upward trending of hip fractures.”

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Sabrina Siddiqui