Maryland court backs state's self-referral law

The American College of Radiology (ACR) reports that a Maryland trial court has upheld the State Board of Physicians' interpretation of Maryland's self-referral law, which strictly limits CT, MR, and radiation therapy performed by self-referring physicians.

A coalition of orthopedic surgeons, urologists, and emergency physicians sued the board last year, asserting that the panel incorrectly interpreted how the law applied to various self-referral MRI arrangements.

The board determined that orthopedic surgeons and neurologists benefited financially from self-referring patients for MRI studies and failed to meet any exception to the self-referral ban. The exception to the rule was cases of referrals from employed physicians.

The court also noted that the exceptions regard in-office ancillary services; services provided within the same group practice as the referring physician; and services that the referring physician performs or directly supervises.

The ACR also noted that the court found that the board's determination that the ancillary services exception does not allow orthopedist referrals for MRI or CT scans, because the definition specifically excludes all physicians except radiologists from performing those scans.

The court also ruled that a physician in a group practice may only refer a patient's entire care to another group physician, not solely for particular tests. Therefore, orthopedists may not refer patients for MRI or CT studies to their colleagues within the same group practice.

The ACR also reported that the doctors plan to appeal the court's decision to an appellate court.

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers
October 26, 2007

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