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Legislation to make referrals more transparent

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently introduced legislation (S 3343) that would require physicians to disclose their financial ties to imaging services ordered under Medicare when making self-referrals, CQ HealthBeat reports.

The legislation is intended to reduce physicians’ incentives for referring patients to imaging providers in which the doctor has a financial stake by requiring them to disclose such ties. The bill would require physicians to provide beneficiaries with a written list of alternative providers when referring imaging services, such as MRIs, CT and PET scans. The measure also would require the list to specify which providers are in proximity to the beneficiary’s home. The legislation is based on recommendations from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission after the Government Accountability Office found that Medicare imaging spending increased about 200% between 2000 and 2006. The Congressional Budget Office did not score the measure, but a Grassley aide said it could reduce Medicare spending.

Mo Zilly, director of government relations for the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, said that MITA would support the measure because it improves transparency. However, she said it does little to reduce overuse of imaging services in Medicare and instead shifts costs from one provider to another.

Grassley had included a similar provision under Medicare legislation on which he worked with Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that failed to receive consideration. Ultimately, the new Medicare law did not include the imaging disclosure provision (Parnass, CQ HealthBeat, 7/29).

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