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GA Insurer Steers Patients To Cheaper Scans

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa), the state’s largest health insurer, has begun calling patients who have been referred for a CT or MRI scan and letting them know whether they can find a better deal somewhere else.

A BCBSGa news release explains:

Once a referral is made for an MRI and/or CT scan by a physician at a specific facility, members will receive a call providing them information on other in-network facilities that offer the same imaging services, and how those facilities rank in terms of cost and quality.

The “quality” measure comes largely from how current the technology is, according to Georgia Health News. The program covers 20 Georgia counties, including the heart of metro Atlanta. It uses technology from American Imaging Management.

The program takes square aim at costs. The news release quotes Mark Kishel, MD, medical director of BCBSGa, as saying:

The cost of advanced imaging procedures has increased in recent years, contributing to higher medical costs. For example, the cost for MRI and CT scans can vary from $350 to $2,000, depending on the region where you live and the facility where a procedure is performed.

BCBSGa has more than 2.5 million members.

Two other dispatches from the front lines of the ongoing war over the expense and appropriate use of imaging:

  • The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance, the trade group of medical imaging machine manufacturers, has released a statement praising a U.S. House bill that would require Medicare to reimburse physicians for virtual colonoscopies (CT colonography).
  • U.S. primary-care physicians frequently order lung-cancer screening tests for asymptomatic patients, even though no major expert group recommends doing so, says a new study published in the March/AprilĀ  issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. As a result of the extra tests, the study says, “a substantial proportion of the adult population could be inappropriately screened.”

Related seminar: Computed Body Tomography: The Cutting Edge

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