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 Picture is cloudy over virtual colon exam

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Date posted: 16/05/2009

The US federal government's decision this week to not reimburse for high-tech colonoscopy exams may pose trouble for emerging companies that specialize in managing complex data from increasingly powerful imaging machines.

In the short run, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) decision to decline coverage for "virtual" colonoscopies will have little financial impact on Minnesota companies such as Vital Images Inc., said Ernest Andberg, an analyst with Feltl & Co.

Minnetonka-based Vital Images makes software that analyzes images from CT scans.

However, the federal agency's decision is fraught with political and economic consequences as the agency seeks to rein in health care spending, Andberg said. CMS has taken an especially tough position on 3D radiology, a booming industry with questionable medical and cost benefits.

"CMS wants to slow it down," Andberg said. "This is one more step there."

Expert say the CMS decision on virtual colonoscopies is only the first step in what will likely be a fierce debate over what medical technologies the government chooses to cover and how it makes such decisions. Faced with ballooning health care costs and a recession, Medicare will start to run out of money in 2017, two years ahead of earlier projections. The government released its latest Medicare forecast on Tuesday, the same day CMS issued its ruling on virtual colonoscopies.

See the full Story via external site: www.physorg.com



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