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New Report: Boost Radiologists’ Fees By 30%

July 26, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Practice Management
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Medicare and Medicaid “must” increase evaluation and management fees—payments for the exercise of a physician’s judgment—by at least 30 percent, according to a report released last week by The Physicians Foundation.

The increase should apply to, among others, “specialists such as cardiologists, pathologists, radiologists, and others who participate in the diagnostic process,” says the report, titled The Future of Medical Practice: Creating Options for Practicing Physicians to Control Their Professional Destiny.

The report also recommends several other things that won’t happen either.

Sorry; we shouldn’t be so cynical.

The Physicians Foundation, based in Boston, is a nonprofit organization that, according to its Web site, “seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and to improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans.”

The new report can be downloaded here. Its author, Jeff Goldsmith, PhD, is associate professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia.

The report absolves physicians from responsibility for rising health-care costs, contending:

The core health cost problem in the United States today is not physician care, but hospital costs, particularly outpatient services, and the cost of health insurance premiums.

The report warns that “the American physician community is in turmoil.” The recession has hurt business, devastated investments, and forced many doctors to postpone retirement. Most physicians dislike the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and worry about its effects, the report says. Doctors feel squeezed by continuing cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates.

If the economy rebounds, the report says, expect a flood of physician retirements—”perhaps as many as 80,000 to 100,000, in the next five years.”

As for the recommended boost in evaluation and management fees, the report suggests paying for them “by reducing Medicare’s technical fee payments for imaging, surgery, and other complex services and by reducing the permissible marking up of injectable and infusable drugs, as well as by reducing payments for hospital outpatient imaging and surgery.”

The report contends that shifting payments so that a physician’s time and expertise were “fairly valued” would save money overall: “Physicians’ reliance on technical fee payments and drug mark-ups to offset the declining value of their professional time has contributed materially to medical inflation by tempting physicians to find expensive solutions to patients’ problems.”

Maybe. But will this report gain any traction outside physicians’ circles? Its shout of “hey, what about the doctors?” will likely be drowned out by the louder voices of consumers (more numerous) and lobbyists for hospitals, medical-device makers, and pharmaceutical companies (more organized and united).

Or perhaps we’re just being too cynical. We’ll see.

Related seminar: Radiology Review


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