Dispute escalates over French restrictions on imaging

France's national union of independent radiologists (Fédération nationale de médecins radiologues, FNMR) has released a statement strongly criticizing Friday's decision by the national union of health insurers (Union nationale des caisses d'assurance maladie, UNCAM) to impose restrictions on medical imaging.

FNMR refers to the restrictions as "a direct attack on the health of French citizens" and calls on the government to not only drop its policy for restricting imaging, but also invest in developing the specialty.

UNCAM voted to lower the tariffs of conventional radiology and CT interpretation through the removal of the Z-code surcharge that factors in a charge for specific acts performed by the radiologist, and through lowering the rates applied to technical acts for CT, MRI and PET -- rates that help to address costs related to the depreciation of equipment, according to FNMR.

"French radiologists are extremely upset; the amount of tweets we've received shows this and we are also supported by all the general unions of medicine. The way this government acts is completely dictatorial and very far from the ethos of northern democracies," FNMR President Dr. Jean-Philippe Masson told AuntMinnieEurope.com.

UNCAM's "unilateral" decision to limit the number of acts through a lowering of tariffs shows a failure to understand the specialty or the expertise and technology involved, the FNMR added. It points to the need to increase investment in high-end equipment to respond to France's growing demand for imaging.

"The lowering of tariffs today constitutes a lack of investment tomorrow for which UNCAM is answerable to the public," FNMR stated.

The union believes this decision may trigger closure of some imaging centers, while others will cease to invest in equipment due to a lack of funds. Patients will also miss out on rapid access to CT, MRI, and PET for timely, sometimes vital, diagnosis and treatment, the union noted. Moreover, FNMR stated it unreservedly condemns the measures that affect hospitals as well as independent centers, and highlighted UNCAM's refusal to consider any of FNMR's proposals for imaging over the past 18 months.

The statement also addressed the government directly, stressing that imaging's key role in the early detection and treatment of disease was both a major source of savings for the national health system and a means of improving patient care. The union called on the authorities to therefore develop the specialty, not shrink it.

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