Impact of Reimbursement Cuts on the Sustainability and Accessibility of Dopamine Transporter Imaging

Matthew F. Covington, Natalie A. McMillan, Phillip H Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Dopamine transporter single-photon emission computed tomography imaging utilizing iodine-123 ioflupane is accurate for differentiation of Parkinson disease from essential tremor. This study evaluates how reimbursement for I-123 ioflupane imaging changed between 2011 (year of FDA approval) and 2014 (year after loss of pass-through status for hospital-based outpatient imaging from CMS). Methods: I-123 ioflupane reimbursement data for our institution's hospital-based imaging were compared between two periods: (1) July 2011 to October 2012, and (2) 2014. For each time period separately and in combination, averages and ranges of reimbursement for private insurance and CMS were analyzed and compared. A model to ensure recouping of radiopharmaceutical costs was developed. Results: Review yielded 247 studies from July 2011 to October 2012 and 94 studies from 2014. Average reimbursement per study fell from $2,469 (US dollars) in 2011 to 2012 to $1,657 in 2014. CMS reduced average reimbursement by $1,148 in 2014 because of loss of radiopharmaceutical pass-through status. Average reimbursements from CMS versus private payors markedly differed in 2011 to 2012 at $2,266 versus $2,861, respectively, and in 2014 at $1,118 versus $3,470, respectively. Between 2011 to 2012 and 2014, the CMS percentage increased from 54% to 78%. Assuming that I-123 ioflupane cost $2,000, our model based on 2014 data predicts a practice with greater than 60% CMS patients would no longer recover radiopharmaceutical costs. Conclusions: Reimbursement levels, payor mix, scanner location, and radiopharmaceutical costs are all critical, variable factors for modeling the financial viability of I-123 ioflupane imaging and, by extrapolation, future radiopharmaceuticals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2016


  • Dopamine transporter imaging
  • Imaging access
  • Ioflupane
  • Medicare reimbursement
  • Radiopharmaceutical cost

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of Reimbursement Cuts on the Sustainability and Accessibility of Dopamine Transporter Imaging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this