Medicare Pays Non-Radiologists More than Radiologists for MRI, CT

HealthLeaders Media Staff , January 11, 2011

At the beginning of 2007, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 went into effect, and by 2008, payments to radiologists had been cut by 13%, and non-radiologists took an 11% cut

“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,” says Levin.

The specialties with the highest Medicare payments for imaging were radiology, cardiology, primary care, and orthopedic surgery.

Because most imaging by non-radiologists is self-referred (whereas radiologists generally do not have the opportunity to self-refer), these findings should interest – and raise concerns for—policymakers and payers, Levin says. If policymakers, healthcare executives and other leaders want to control the costs of imaging, they need to either bar self referrals or significantly restrict them, he tells HealthLeaders Media. “This is what is driving up costs.”

His research, he says, drives home a point that many others have been making. But, he acknowledges, the issue of self-referrals is “a political hot potato.”

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