Gina Kolata raises many questions in her New York Times piece today, "Good or Useless, Medical Scans Cost the Same."
Besides issues of variable scan quality, she writes:
In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office said nearly two-thirds of the money Medicare paid for imaging was for scans in doctors’ offices. And, the report added, doctors were receiving an ever larger part of their income from providing scanning services. Not only were patients more likely to have scans if a doctor did this, but the quality of some of the scans was questioned.
“No comprehensive national standards exist for services delivered in physician offices other than a requirement that imaging services are to be provided under at least general physician supervision,” the G.A.O. wrote.
Private health insurers were concerned, too. “These are alarming patterns that have also been observed in the private sector,” America’s Health Insurance Plans wrote in a response to the G.A.O.
It is clear why self-referral can be tempting, said Dr. Bruce Hillman, a radiology professor at the University of Virginia.
“It’s all profits,” Dr. Hillman said, adding that a group of doctors can make an extra $500,000 to $1 million a year simply by acquiring a scanner.