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Medicare GAO Report on Radiology

Prior Imaging-Authorization Suggested

Staff Reporters

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, on July 14, 2008, Medicare may be soon requiring prior authorization to curtail unnecessary utilization of CT scans, MRIs and other forms of medical imaging, a new Government Accounting Office [GAO] report suggests.

The Medicare Report

To cut imaging costs, Medicare has been reducing certain physician payments, sifting through its data to spot improper claims, and educating medical practitioners about the issue. But, the GAO reported that post-payment claims review alone is inadequate to manage medical imaging – one of the fastest growing parts of Medicare – and suggests that Medicare include prior authorization as a possible front-end tactic.

The Findings

The GAO pointed to new evidence of imaging overuse in physician practices, including:

  • The proportion of Medicare spending on in-office imaging rose from 58 percent to 64 percent from 2000 to 2006.
  • Imaging became an increasingly large slice of doctors’ revenue pie. For example, cardiologists got 36 percent of their total Medicare revenue from in-office imaging in 2006, compared with 23 percent in 2000.
  • In-office imaging spending per Medicare patient varied widely nationwide in 2006, from $62 in Vermont to $472 in Florida.

Assessment

What might proponents of the classic Dartmouth Study on healthcare quality say about these findings?

Conclusion

Please comment on the above; opinions from health economists, actuaries and our radiology colleagues are especially welcomed.

Related Information Sources:

Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/prod.aspx?prod_id=23759

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Health Administration Terms: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

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Patients Challenging Medical Invoices and Bills

Root Cause is Money, Failure-to-Disclose and Frustration

[By Staff Reporters]

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Patients are challenging their medical bills with lawyers and lawsuits, out of frustration about the lack of up-front disclosure over costs by doctors and hospitals.

Involve More than a Few Cases

For example, after being charged $82,282 for a 23-hour stay in doctor-owned Westfield Hospital for two operations on her abdomen, a 56-year-old West Penn Township woman called the hospital and her insurer for an explanation.

Not satisfied with the response, she hired a lawyer and notified a reporter, after which Westfield officials said she was overcharged due to human error.

In another 2006 class-action Seattle lawsuit that was expected to have a ripple effect on consumers and hospitals, two patients of the Virginia Mason Medical Center filed suit against the center and won, after which Virginia Mason agreed to pay back an estimated $60 million to more than 3,200 patients who over six years had been charged ”overhead” for procedures performed in hospital-owned clinics – in some cases adding 60 percent to the price patients would have been charged for the same procedure performed by the same doctors in their offices.

Assessment

Although private legal action over medical bills is hard to track, the number of billing and coverage complaints filed with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s health care unit has risen steadily, with the 2,000 or more complaints so far this year representing a five or six percent increase over last year; according to Morning Call, July 13, 2008.

Conclusion

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