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Radiologists: Meaningful Use Makes Us Slaves

October 15, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Interventional Radiology, Practice Management
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Well, this will be an interesting lawsuit to follow. An Oklahoma City radiology practice is attempting to overturn some meaningful use requirements and penalties, citing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution—the one that outlaws slavery.

The penalties derive from provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The radiologists say the law requires them to submit patient history and physical exam information. But they never see patients, just images. To comply, they’d have to track down the patient information, but Medicare and Medicaid do not reimburse them for such efforts.

That, the radiologists say in their federal lawsuit, amounts to slavery:

The effect of that refusal is involuntary servitude, a violation of the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit says the refusal to compensate also violates the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against the uncompensated seizure of “private property of physical labor in taking histories and physicals.”

Courthouse News Service reported Monday that Diagnostic Imaging Group of Oklahoma City and radiologists Ernest Mckenzie, MD, and John Hamlin, MD, have sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Novitas Solutions (which administers Medicare processing in Oklahoma).

The doctors “seek to declare invalid and permanently enjoin the enforcement of Medicare and Medicaid’s eligible professional meaningful use penalties for noncompliance.” Specifically, they target penalties scheduled to take effect in 2015 if medical professionals do not submit “meaningful use” electronic health records reports with their Medicare bills.

The law, according to the lawsuit, “makes no differentiation in its meaningful use rules and regulations between hospital-based radiologists who only interpret inpatient and outpatient imaging studies without doing histories and physicals on patients and hospital-based radiologists who are interventionalists who interact with patients similar to surgeons and cardiologists where histories and physicals are necessary prior to intervention.”

The lawsuit contends, “There is no rational basis for the law … to impose on hospital radiologists who are not admitting or treating patients the demands of meaningful use when the same information and data is obtained from the hospital medical records and the eligible hospital meaningful use reports and the treating physician records.”

We’ll definitely keep an eye on this one as it makes its way through the courts.

Related CME seminar (up to 25.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Interventional Radiology Review

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