Physician Self-Referrals for Imaging Services May Increase Medicare Spending


From Fulbright Jaworski’s Washington Update (

In a public meeting on April 8, 2009, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission ("MedPAC") discussed the impact of physician self-referrals for imaging services on overall Medicare spending. MedPac reported that the volume of imaging services per beneficiary is growing faster than other physician services. MedPac determined that this increase is likely driven by multiple factors, including technological innovation, incentives in the Medicare payment system, defensive medicine, consumer demand, lack of research on the impact of imaging on clinical decision-making, inconsistent adherence to clinical guidelines and physician ownership of imaging equipment. MedPac staff further reported that physicians who own imaging equipment are more likely to refer patients to their practices for imaging services. Greater use of imaging was also found to be associated with greater use of all services, and therefore increased costs. For more information regarding the self-referral discussion at the MedPac public meeting, click here

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