Researchers have found that Medicare payments for non-invasive medical imaging, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans, are now higher to non-radiologists than to radiologists, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (www.jacr.org).
"Radiologists have always been considered the physicians who "control" non-invasive diagnostic imaging (NDI) and are primarily responsible for its growth. Yet non-radiologists have become increasingly aggressive in their performance and interpretation of imaging," said David C. Levin, MD, lead author of the study.
Researchers looked at Medicare Part B files covering all fee-for-service physician payments for 1998 to 2008. They selected all codes for discretionary NDI. "We found that the growth in fee-for-service payments to non-radiologists for NDI was considerably more rapid than the growth for radiologists between 1998 and 2006," said Levin.
In 1998, overall Part B payments to radiologists for discretionary NDI were $2.563 billion, compared with $2.020 billion to non-radiologists. In 2008, non-radiologists received $4.807 billion for discretionary NDI, and radiologists received $4.648 billion.
"Our data reveal the somewhat surprising finding that non-radiologist physicians are now paid more for NDI by Medicare than radiologists. This has come about because of more rapid growth in fee-for-service payments to non-radiologists between 1998 and 2006, followed by steeper losses among radiologists after implementation of the DRA in 2007," he said.
"Because most imaging by non-radiologists is self-referred, whereas radiologists generally do not have the opportunity to self-refer, this should be of interest and concern to policy makers and payers," said Levin.
The January issue of JACR is an important resource for radiology and nuclear medicine professionals as well as students seeking clinical and educational improvement.
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