House tables self-referral ban in reform bill

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The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee completed its mark up to H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, late Friday evening without the inclusion of a self-referral amendment.

Although acknowledging that 66 amendments remained outstanding, Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., decided to close off further consideration of amendments. The committee then voted on and passed H.R. 3200 with all amendments considered to that point and decided to reconvene in September. 

In September, all consensus amendments not addressed prior to the congressional recess and agreed to by the chairman will be presented to the committee. Those amendments that are not part of Waxman's consensus agreement may be considered at that time.  Finally, any new amendments agreed to by Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, may also be considered.

In July, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 2962, the Integrity in Medicare Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Act of 2009, in the House. The bill sought to amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to exclude "certain advanced diagnostic imaging services" from the in-office ancillary services exception to the Stark Law's prohibition on physician self-referral. Since that introduction, radiology advocates, such as the American College of Radiology (ACR), have been seeking to have Speier's bill prohibiting physician self-referral rolled into the healthcare reform bill.

Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, had planned to offer an amendment on physician self-referral to address the in-office ancillary services exemption. However, the amendment was not offered during the mark-up, and it remains unclear whether the amendment will be offered when the committee reconvenes in September.

The ACR said it will continue to work with congressional staff during the August congressional recess to clarify the issue.