Self-referral has been a stormy issue nationally for years. In its recent decision, Maryland’s highest court affirmed a 2007 decision by a lower court prohibiting the self-referral of patients. The Maryland State Board of Physicians had not taken a position on the issue regarding MRI machines and other equipment until 2006.
The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons has been following the case closely as it unfolded over three years ago. In 2007, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons filed an amicus brief in the case, along with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography, the American Urological Association and the American College of Surgeons.
“There is a very significant health care policy discussion to happen here, …it’s wrong,” says attorney Howard Rubin, who represented a dozen practioners, emergency medicine doctors, and urologists involved in the case, says of the Maryland high court’s decision. “It shuts down ability of a patient where to get their scans.”
“The heart of our healthcare policy is moving toward integrated systems,” he adds, “as opposed to fragmented, created silos. It’s a question of trust.” But there are doctors who don’t trust the motives of other doctors. Laura I. Thevenot, CEO of the American Society for Radiation Oncology says that the ruling preserved strong patient protection against abusive physician self-referrals.
“Today’s ruling represents a victory for patients in Maryland,” she says. “We hope this decision will jump start congressional action to ensure that all Americans can make independent treatment decisions based on quality care, not perverse financial incentives.”