Radiologist Assistant Bill Introduced in House
Amending Social Security Act to recognize RA State laws and allow Medicare reimbursement
(March 15, 2013) – Representatives Dave Reichert, R-WA, Jim Matheson, D-UT, Pete Olson, R-TX, and Bill Pascrell, D-NJ, yesterday introduced H.R. 1148, the “Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act of 2013.”
This bill would amend the Social Security Act to recognize radiologist assistants (RAs) as non-physician providers of healthcare services to Medicare beneficiaries, and 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.
Better Patient Access, More Promptly
“With radiologist oversight, RAs are perfectly qualified to perform aspects of imaging, patient assessment, management and procedures that allow radiologists the time to focus on procedures and consultations that can be performed only by a radiologist,” says Joy Renner, MA, RT(R)(ARRT), FAEIRS, Radiologist Assistant program director at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chair of the Radiologist Assistants Educators Council (RAEC). “RAs allow radiologists to devote more focused, uninterrupted time reviewing and interpreting medical images and providing timely diagnoses which will provide for efficient, appropriate medical treatment. This means greater timeliness, accuracy and quality of care provided to Medicare beneficiaries. Consumers demand this level of care and are certainly entitled to this level of care, as well.”
“I’m happy I can help skilled students in my district find jobs by making a common-sense change to Medicare’s classification of radiologist assistants,” said Rep. Dave Reichert. “These bright professionals train for years at accredited schools to master the complex technologies necessary to safely and effectively perform medical imaging services. At a time when many Americans are looking for work and high numbers of Medicare beneficiaries are increasing the demand for services, this legislation will be highly supportive for both radiologist assistants and patients.”
Reimbursement by CMS Needed
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.
“I'm pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this common-sense legislation," Rep. Olson said. "This measure will promote more efficient healthcare for America’s seniors, save jobs and help the Medicare program by expanding the role of radiologist assistants and reducing costs for quality care.”
“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, PhD, executive director with The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (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. ARRT is grateful to Reps. Reichert, Matheson, Olson and Pascrell for working to improve access and lower the cost of radiology services for Medicare patients. We look forward to working with them to achieve passage of this legislation.”
H.R. 1148 is strongly supported by ARRT as well as the American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), and the Society of Radiology Physician Extenders (SRPE).
“Patients, state medical boards and the medical imaging community have embraced the radiology physician extender community and relied upon it to provide timely imaging access, says Jason Barrett, SRPE president. “Passage of this bill would allow Medicare beneficiaries to utilize this crucial access resource that some states have already recognized as a necessary component of healthcare delivery.”
“We believe this bill will preserve RA educational programs and jobs while saving needed health care dollars,” said ASRT president Donna L. Thaler Long, MSM, RT(R)(M)(QM)(ARRT), FASRT. “In addition, it will ensure that patients continue to have timely access to quality medical imaging services.”
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About the American College of Radiology (ACR)
The American College of Radiology (ACR) is a national professional organization serving more than 34,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of radiology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services. The ACR is headquartered in Reston, Va., with government relations offices in Washington, D.C., and the ACR Clinical Research Center located in Philadelphia, Pa. For more information, visit www.acr.org.
About the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) promotes high standards of patient care by recognizing qualified individuals in medical imaging, interventional procedures, and radiation therapy. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., ARRT evaluates, certifies and annually registers more than 300,000 radiologic technologists across the United States. For more information, visit www.arrt.org.
About the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)
The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M., represents more than 141,000 members who perform medical imaging procedures or plan and deliver radiation therapy. The Society is the largest radiologic science association in the world. Its mission is to advance the medical imaging and radiation therapy profession and to enhance the quality of patient care. For more information, visit www.asrt.org.
About the Society of Radiology Physician Extenders (SRPE)
The Society of Radiology Physician Extenders (SRPE) is a non-profit organization representing Radiology Practitioner Assistants (RPAs) and Registered Radiology Assistants (R.R.A.s) while sharing a common bond within the global mid-level radiology profession and medical community in general. The SRPE, located in Philadelphia, Pa., is an active participant with other health care professionals and organizations to educate and promote the role of the mid-level radiology extender. The organization is committed to fostering the highest values and promoting superior lifelong success both personally and professionally. For more information, visit www.srpeweb.org.