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Doctor-clinic ties in St. Louis area questioned

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 17, 2008

Some economists say a big reason for skyrocketing healthcare costs is pricey, perhaps unnecessary, and potentially dangerous tests. The problem has the potential to worsen when physicians who prescribe the tests profit from them, they say. These concerns prompted Congress to pass the Stark law barring such arrangements, but physicians are finding increasingly creative ways to get around the law. Because some clinics decline to care for patients in federal programs, they are not covered by the Stark law, for example. But some physicians may be taking advantage: Data show that MRI referrals were 50% higher and CT scan referrals were 30% higher among doctors who held a financial stake in the imaging equipment or the imaging centers to which they sent patients.