Senator Targets Self-Referrals in Imaging Battle
To combat the rising costs of medical imaging, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced legislation aimed at creating more transparency in the physician’s office.
Offered as an amendment to the Ethics in Patient Referrals Act, the Medicare Imaging Disclosure Sunshine Act of 2008 “will provide another necessary tool to address the significant increase in Medicare spending for in-office imaging services by providing more transparency and shedding some light on physician referrals to facilities and medical imaging equipment they own,” Grassley said in introducing S. 3343 last month.
The amendment requires physicians, at the time of referral, to inform patients in writing that they may get the necessary imaging services elsewhere and to provide them with a written list of imaging suppliers in their area. It does not expressly require disclosure of the physician’s interest in any facilities.
The bill, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2010, applies to MRIs, CTs, positron emission tomography and other radiology services the HHS secretary deems appropriate. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
In citing the need for such an amendment, Grassley mentioned the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) June report on Medicare that found Part B spending for imaging services more than doubled in six years, growing from nearly $7 billion in 2000 to more than $14 billion in 2006.The GAO linked that growth, in part, to physician offices providing imaging services. “During this time, the percentage of Medicare spending on imaging services provided in physician offices grew from 58 percent (about $4 billion) in 2000 to 64 percent (about $9 billion) in 2006,” Grassley said.