GAO takes on self-referral study
Article Thumbnail ImageApril 29, 2010 -- The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to study the effects of physician self-referral of advanced medical imaging and radiation therapy treatments on Medicare spending, according to a GAO spokesperson.
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"We've received the request and have assigned it to our healthcare team," said Laura Kopelson, senior public affairs specialist for the agency. "That team will develop the initial research [plan] and identify data sources and issues that need to be evaluated."

The move is in response to lobbying from the American College of Radiology (ACR) of Reston, VA, and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) of Fairfax, VA, which asked three members of the U.S. House of Representatives to have the GAO study the effects of physician self-referral of advanced medical imaging and radiation therapy treatments on Medicare spending.

The request came from Energy and Commerce committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ways and Means committee chair Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), and Ways and Means health subcommittee chair Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA).

According to the ACR, previous GAO reports have shown that when physicians refer patients to imaging facilities in which they have a financial interest, utilization is significantly increased. The ACR advocates that government regulation address financially driven self-referral, which may not be rectified by quality measures.

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