April 2, 2013 — Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Pete Olson (R-TX) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) have introduced the Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act of 2013 (H.R. 1148).
This bill would amend the Social Security Act to recognize radiologist assistants (RAs) as non-physician providers of healthcare services to Medicare beneficiaries, and it would authorize physician reimbursement through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for procedures performed by RAs in states that have laws establishing radiologist assistant practice guidelines.
RAs work under radiologist supervision and perform select imaging and patient-care duties traditionally performed by the radiologist. While they do not prescribe medication or therapies, diagnose or interpret medical images, RAs perform procedures and patient assessment and management that increase patient access to critical radiology services and augment the delivery of optimal, timely and safe radiology care – leading to greater efficiencies and value for patients and providers.
RAs are educated in an advanced medical imaging academic program specifically designed to complement the work of radiologists. Currently, 12 universities offer accredited education programs with radiologist-supervised clinical training, and 29 states license or certify RAs. Upon graduation from an accredited program, radiologist assistants take a national certification examination developed by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Certification Board for Radiology Practitioner Assistants (CBRPA). To maintain their national ARRT or CBRPA certification, RAs must maintain certification and registration in radiography, complete approved continuing education every two years and comply with strict professional standards of ethical conduct as administered by ARRT.
The bill would enable healthcare facilities and radiology practices to be reimbursed for RA-performed services. By establishing a reduced reimbursement level for the professional component of procedures performed by RAs, the bill should result in savings to the healthcare system.
“Although not a complete solution to the patient access problems that this country is facing, making this modest change to the Medicare law will enable radiologist assistants to provide care to the full extent of their training and scope of practice, thereby improving patient care and satisfaction, lowering costs and meeting patient demand,” said Jerry B. Reid, Ph.D., executive director with ARRT. “We applaud Rep. Reichert and the other cosponsors who recognize the need to adopt common-sense, bipartisan changes to the Medicare program so that seniors can benefit from innovations in health care delivery.”